Government and civil servants' negotiators met for more than eight hours in Harare yesterday, inching closer to hammering out a salaries deal that could be signed as early as Monday. The State told workers' representatives that it could not sustain a monthly increment that amounted to more than US$13 million for the entire civil service.
Apex Council team leader and Zimta president Mr Richard Gundani declined to divulge details of the meeting but said an agreement was "imminent".
Negotiators agreed to reconstitute on Monday with the Government team saying it would carry out another round of consultations with higher authorities before then.
Sources said Government stuck to its guns and told the workers that it was prepared to move the monthly wage bill of the 230 000 civil servants from US$142 million to US$155 million.
Goverment is offering the lowest paid employee (Grade B1) US$375 up from US$297.
The figure includes housing and transport allowances. The rural allowance remains at five percent of basic salary, but workers are demanding 30 percent.
Civil servants want US$543 for the lowest paid employee in line with the poverty datum line (PDL), in addition to other non-monetary benefits.
The PDL, according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, stands at US$540.
Said Mr Gundani: "We are not going to divulge details of our agreements but tremendous progress has been made and we are in the final lap.
"We are making good progress towards coming up with an agreement. There is still technical work and consultations that need to be done by both parties."
He said most of the consultations would be done over the weekend.
"Certain documents are going to be produced when we agree. All I can tell you is that there was a lot of good faith from Government. Of course, we have differences here and there but we are almost there," Mr Gundani said.
Public Service Association president Mrs Alexander Cecelia said the negotiations were at an advanced stage.
"Negotiations are a process, not an event. Government was receptive to our demands and by Monday an agreement would be reached," she said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Mr Raymond Majongwe said a movement in the Government offer would only be realised if it accepted to de-bunch the salary grades.
"There was no movement from what was presented on Wednesday because they simply unpacked the salaries in various grades," he said.
"We handed in a fresh demand where we want Government to bring in a figure to enable salary de-bunching of salary grades.
"We have given them a figure and we want it to be taken to the politicians of this country. If the gods smile on us and the politicians of this country are compassionate enough, there might be a movement on Monday."
On Wednesday, Government tabled increments for all grades, with those in Grade B1 being offered an increment of US$79.
It offered US$500 up from US$446 for grade D1 (such as teachers straight out of college), and US$623 for deputy directors who fall in the E1 category.
Government's wage bill already chews over 70 percent of the total National Budget.
About 73 percent of the US$4,2 billion 2014 National Budget presented by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa last month is recurrent expenditure.
This comes on the back of poor revenue performance with cumulative expenditures to November last year amounting to US$3,526 billion against a target of US$3,396 billion, resulting in expenditure overrun of US$130 million.