11 January 2014

Zimbabwe: D-Day for Govt Pay Talks

Civil servants will know their new salary structure on Wednesday when Government negotiators and their representatives meet at the National Joint Negotiating Council, a Cabinet minister has said.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche told The Herald that Government would also table proposals on non-monetary benefits during the meeting.

Government has already indicated that the workers would get their salary increments backdated to January this year as it was impossible to effect an increment this month without going to the NJNC, a platform that brings to the negotiating table the employer and workers' side.

"The negotiating teams are meeting on Wednesday and we have already informed the staff associations through a letter," he said.

"The meeting will see Government responding to their position paper which they submitted recently. We have our position as Government and we will first reveal that position, what we have to offer and negotiate from there."

The workers are demanding US$543 for the lowest paid civil servant and 30 percent of basic salary as rural allowance, to cushion civil servants working in rural areas.

The least-paid Government worker currently gets US$297.

Civil servants also want indigenisation and non-monetary benefits.

Minister Goche said Government had proposals on non-monetary benefits to discuss with the workers, chief among them housing.

He said civil servants would also be asked to table their ideas which would be fused with Government proposals to come up with a solution.

"We have a two-pronged approach on the issue of housing," he said.

"Government plans to build houses for its workers and though it is long- term that should be the norm. We cannot have a magistrate being transferred from Harare to Gokwe and on arrival he has nowhere to stay yet he is on Government duty.

"The houses have also to be afford-able and as such NSSA is putting aside a substantial amount to start that. It is setting up a new financial fund to deal with that."

Added Minister Goche: "The good thing is that the workers will participate in doing that by suggesting their ideas while we suggest what we can also do. I believe if we put our ideas together sincerely, then something positive would come up at the end of the day."

Civil servants union leaders yesterday confirmed Wednesday's meeting adding that they were geared for it.

They said they were also looking forward to the interpretation of the National Budget by the Government representatives.

"We will be going there to get our response in relation to our demands," said Zimbabwe Teachers' Association chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu.

"A clear interpretation of the Budget is also what we need for us to understand what it means to for the workers."

Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo said they would appreciate any significant movement on their salaries Government would offer.

"We know we are in a difficult economic situation and as such we will accept whatever it is," he said.

"We appreciate that the economy is not performing well and the increment might not be exactly what we want but any movement from what we were getting for the past five years is welcome. Government's invite has come and our membership cannot wait for Wednesday."

College Lecturers' Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dza-tsunga said: "Promises have been made at various forums by various officials to the effect of salary increments and this is what we are waiting for in five days time."

Civil servants failed to get a meaningful salary increment during the tenure of the inclusive Government due to policy inconstancies by the MDC-T Ministers who superintended the portfolios of Finance and Public Service.

The then Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, repeatedly told them that Government had no money while then then Public Service Minister Lucia Matibenga refused to meet them.

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