EDITORIAL COMMENT: Civil servants must make realistic salary demands

civil-servantsTHE government has paved way for the resumption of salary negotiations for this year by appointing a new leader of the government team that will engage workers.

The National Joint Negotiating Council, which is charged with negotiating conditions of service for civil servants, has not met since June last year.

The government team is led by Simon Masanga. According to Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira, government salary negotiations will resume soon.

As the two sides prepare for the salary negotiations, we urge them to be realistic in their expectations. Workers go to work to be able to fend for their families.

Civil servants in the country feel their remuneration is not adequate and are bound to demand a significant salary increment, especially after the government reneged on its promise to review salaries mid last year.

Civil servants’ representatives need to bear in mind when they make their demands that the government is facing cashflow challeges. The government is not a profit making organisation but makes its money through taxes.

With the economy depressed, companies which should provide the bulk of government revenue through taxes, duty and other payments, are struggling to pay.

The delayed bonus payment is a confirmation of reduced cashflow in government coffers.

Government workers normally get their bonuses before the end of December. This year, because of revenue challenges, the bonuses were staggered with some getting them early this month, others this week while the remainder will get them by the end of the month. This is unprecedented in the history of Zimbabwe.

It is commendable that the government, despite the challenges it is facing, has never failed to pay its workers their salaries and bonuses.

But the question is for how long is this situation going to continue? At present 70 percent of government revenue is going towards salaries.

There is a danger that if workers make unreasonable salary demands the government might end up failing to pay even monthly salaries.

In Africa, there are examples of governments that are in salary arrears and it would be unfortunate if Zimbabwe were to join this group of countries.

Civil servants might not know it but they are now an enviable lot. A lot of companies have gone for months without paying workers. Some private sector workers are owed up to two years’ salaries.

Although many mock civil servants as being underpaid, reading through dateline columns in newspapers shows that many lonely people out there specify that they prefer to go out with civil servants. This is because they realise that although the money is not much, it is guaranteed, come pay day.

It would be a sad day if the government were to fail to pay its workers just because they made irrational salary demands. We believe that civil servants’ salary increments should be matched with government’s revenue inflows.

The salaries can always be increased as the economy improves, as it will in the near future.

 

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