17 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Workers Seek Audience With Minister

Civil servants have written to Public Service Minister Lucia Matibenga requesting for a meeting with her next Tuesday over salaries and working conditions.

Speaking after a two-hour meeting in Harare on Tuesday, newly elected Apex council chairperson Mr David Dzatsunga said Government workers needed an update on their working conditions. Government promised to effect a 5,5 percent inflation-related increment on the workers' salaries this month but failed.

Government has been mum over the issue insisting the Apex Council - a body that represents civil servants - was not properly constituted and there was no one to hold salary negotiations with.

In their letter, the workers proposed to meet Minister Matibenga as individual unions next Tuesday.

"We, the undersigned being representatives of civil servants, would like to propose for a meeting with you as the Minister of Public Service to brief us on the current Government position regarding the issue of civil servants' salaries.

"We propose that we have that meeting on Tuesday 11am," read the letter.

Mr Dzatsunga said the newly elected Apex Council leadership would remain in place.

"This is our negotiating team. We had proposed that the old committee takes over for the next three months but Government is yet to respond on that," he said. "While we wait for that we will approach her (Matibenga) as individual unions. Those who are disputing the election of the new leadership should fill the vacant posts in the council."

The Public Service Association, a union that represents most of the workers not in the education sector, is disputing the elections saying they were unconstitutional.

Zimta president Mrs Tendai Chikowore said their members were not happy with the failure by Government to award them a salary increase.

"Most pay dates have come and gone. There is nothing for the working class," she said. "It is our hope that the minister will meet us next Tuesday so that we communicate with our members from an informed position. Morale is low among the workers."

The lowest paid Government employee is getting US$296 per month while the poverty datum line is over US$600.

Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo said: "We are going to tackle Government head-on beginning Tuesday."

Minister Biti said the 5,5 percent inflation-related increment would push the civil service wage bill to US$2,6 billion including grant-aided institutions. This is about 68 percent of the total expenditure. Last year's wage bill stood at US$1,4 billion.

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