30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Civil Servants Fail to Reconstitute Apex Council

Civil servants failed to reconstitute the Apex Council yesterday, amid reports that some unions were bringing divisions from their affiliate organisations to the negotiating table. The Apex Council is the umbrella body for civil servants organisations.

The failure to make progress further dampened civil servants' hopes of having salary negotiations soon as Government remains adamant that they should properly constitute the Apex Council first.

The unions were yesterday expected to elect nine members to lead the Apex Council for the next two years.

The Public Service Association snubbed the meeting arguing that the other unions had used wrong procedures to convene it.

The PSA represents most Government workers not in the education sector.

The unions ended up coming up with nine members -including two from the PSA, without the consent of the association, a move that is likely to be rejected by Government.

Sources said squabbles in the Apex Council were being perpetuated by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe which is allegedly affiliated to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions faction led by Mr Lovemore Matombo. Public Service Association president Mrs Cecelia Alexander is allegedly affiliated to the George Nkiwane faction.

"We are not going anywhere and there is no good news for the workers because it seems the divisions are deepening on daily basis because of people who are importing their factionalism into the civil service," the source said.

"Majongwe and Public Service Minister Lucia Matibenga used to come from the two feuding ZCTU factions and now Majongwe is claiming that because of this the Minister is now siding with the PSA because it is affiliated to her former labour movement.

"Majongwe is claiming that Minister Matibenga will never accept a situation where the PSA does not take a leadership role in the (Apex) council."

But Mr Majongwe said: "All I can say is that it is clear that Government wants to hold salary negotiations with certain people, which is unacceptable.

"We have come up with nine members Government wants for the Apex Council although the PSA was absent and if the Minister refuses to recognise that then we know there is a hidden agenda."

Mrs Alexander denied that ZCTU factionalism was destroying the Apex Council.

"We were geared for the meeting, but we did not attend because of certain issues. We were invited by a person we do not recognise and the letter had no agenda," she said.

"There is no politics taking place because we are a neutral union concerned with bread and butter issues. If someone thinks that the Minister is siding with us then he or she is lost."

Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said civil servants unions should organise themselves for the benefit of their members.

"This infighting is not helping and there was nothing revolutionary in yesterday's meeting. We should destroy alliances that are in the council and I think this could be done if all the unions in the education sector form one team of negotiators," he said.

Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo added: "Without unity we will not achieve anything. It is our hope that Minister Matibenga will recognise the new list of names we have come up with."

College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dzatsunga said salary negotiations should take place for the benefit of the workers.

"We have come up with our list which includes all unions including the PSA. I do not see the reason why Government should reject this," he said.

Minister Matibenga last week met leaders of the unions and ordered them to put their house in order.

Squabbles in the Apex Council started after Mr Dzatsunga was elected as the new chairperson and other unions contested the polls, saying they were unconstitutional.

The term of office of the Mrs Tendai Chikowore-led committee expired in February last year and there have been no meaningful salary negotiations since then.

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