14 March 2017

Zimbabwe: Civil Service Stands Rumpus Continues

THE furore over the use of residential stands as a government option to incentivise its poorly paid workforce is far from over with a teachers group saying Zanu PF-led administration wants to stampede its employees into a rushed arrangement.

A government plan to replace the 2016 bonuses with stands fell through a week ago after rival civil servant unions displayed rare unison by rejecting the offer.

An agreement was then reached to stagger the cash payments deeper into the year.

However, union leaders suggested stands as a non-monetary incentive to civil servants by a government that has not increased salaries for the past six years. Parties are still to finalise the modalities of the new arrangement.

Meanwhile, government has allegedly sped ahead of all to force the completion of forms requesting individual workers' details, an arrangement that has riled a restive workforce that has become increasingly suspicious of the country's biggest employer.

According to a circular sent last week to heads of ministries and departments by Public Service Commission secretary P. Sunguro, civil servants were all directed to complete forms indicating their preferences before 13 March.

"...Heads of Ministries and Departments are required to advise all members to fill in their pertinent details in the attached form, in order to enable the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development and Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to plan appropriately," read the circular in part.

"All Directors of Human Resources must ensure that every member in the respective Ministry/Department complete the form by 13 March 2017.

"Completed forms would be sent to the Public Service Commission not later than 17 March 2017."

The decision to short circuit the process by a broke government has been described by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) as a backdoor attempt by government to raise funds for the 2018 elections.

"Government has hijacked the stands for political reasons of raising money for elections in 2018," PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou told NewZimbabwe.com on Sunday.

"It is interested in deducting money from civil servants before putting in place measures that can ensure transparency, accountability and equity.

"Our argument as leaders is that the government must first show us proof that it has acquired the land and then give offer letters for existing stands.

"Where civil servants would be given the right to accept or turn down a stand given in a particular area. We are worried when government is interested in deducting money for stands whose existence is in doubt and whose final cost has not been established.

"Worse still we need to put in place other measures that would address aspects like what happens if a paying member dies."

Zhou said his organisation has advised members not to sign the forms.

"It would seem government is more interested in fund raising for 2018 elections and fleecing civil servants of their hard earned cash as they want to deduct $50 from every civil servant thereby raising $20 million every month.

"We have informed our members not to spend signatures to the forms until transparency, accountability and equity are ensured in the stands saga.

"Those who sign can only do so at their own peril," Zhou said.

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