17 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Majongwe Appeals to Mugabe Over Civil Service Pay

PROGRESSIVE Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general, Raymond Majongwe, pleaded for President Robert Mugabe's intervention Friday after eight hours of wage negotiations between government and its workers again failed to yield any positive outcome.

The talks were adjourned to Monday after the government stuck to its Wednesday position to award its lowest paid worker a wage increase of US$79.

Speaking after Friday's meeting, Majongwe was in uncharacteristic begging mode.

"We are pleading with the politicians of this country, we are pleading with the President (Robert Mugabe) of the country, we are pleading with the powers that be to consider and reconsider our positions and we are simply sending a very clear message that there is nothing political about this process," he said

"Zimbabwean workers are pleading with their government to be more sympathetic and more responsive. We are negotiating with our government. We are not Congolese people coming to negotiate with our government.

"We are not M23 rebels. We are civil servants pleading with their own government. No one is fighting Mugabe. He is the President of the country."

Currently, the least paid civil servant gets US$296 a month but the government workers want their wages to be pegged on the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) which the country's consumer rights watchdogs peg at US$540.

Apex Council team leader and Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Richard Gundani tried to keep a brave face by telling reporters progress was made in the negotiations.

"A lot of good faith was demonstrated on both sides, lively debate, differences here and there but then the most important thing is that there was good faith on the part of government and also good faith on the part of workers so that as we move into Monday we are moving forward to clinching an agreement," said Gundani.

Alternate chair of the Apex Council Cecilia Alexander said she saw "light at the end of the tunnel".

Both refused to reveal any figures discussed on fear of jeopardising the talks.

But the outspoken Majongwe was more upfront in his assessment, insisting that the government remained insincere in its pledges.

"The sad part is that there has been no improvement, there has been no movement," he said.

"Everything has remained static and we are going to be meeting on Monday. I don't know to do what, but the most important thing is everything still stands where the Wednesday meeting ended.

"All government did was they unpackaged the salary scales and that is where the unions were trying to say to government they are supposed to be more sincere, more honest and more responsive to the requests that the civil servants were making.

"There was a fresh request from the civil servants to bring in a figure that would enable decompression of salary grades and that figure we have asked them to take time over the weekend to consult politicians and come up with a position.

"If the gods smile on us and if the politicians of this country are compassionate enough we might have a movement from the already existing positions.

Majongwe also joined colleagues from the other workers' unions in refusing to disclose figures that were discussed during the marathon meeting.

But a lunch hour posting on the PTUZ Facebook page came closer to revealing the finer details of the meeting.

The post read: "BREAKING NEWS! Comrades the NJNC meeting is about to be concluded but nothing has changed, government says it has no money this year and has offered the following: D1 Basic salary$284, Transport $100, Housing $116, Total $500.

"D5 Basic $314, Transport $100, Housing $116, Total $530. WAY FORWARD COMRADES? VIVA PTUZ VIVA."

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