Pamela Shumba in Bulawayo and Felex Share in Harare
CIVIL servants have once again been assured that they will be paid their 2015 bonuses.
The assurance was made at a consultative meeting between the Apex Council and the Reserve Bank Governor John Mangudya in Harare on Wednesday.
Civil servants’ representatives said the meeting was satisfactory after Mangudya gave details of the state of the economy and what the government has in its coffers. He also explained to them the reasons for the delays in the payment of salaries.
Apex Council president Richard Gundane said Mangudya assured them that the bonuses will come, although he did not give dates.
“It was an information sharing meeting where the Reserve Bank Governor explained why the government wasn’t in a position to abide by the gazetted pay dates for the civil servants, particularly for December, resulting in some civil servants getting their salaries on January 5, 2016,” said Gundane.
“He also came down on the issue of bonuses and emphasised that the government will stick to its promise. He said they had positioned themselves to make sure that they raise money which will go towards bonuses.
“He said the government would fight hard to meet its obligations. The timeline however is not clear.”
Gundane said he was hoping that pay dates would be clarified at a National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC) meeting scheduled for Wednesday next week.
“From the governor’s point of view, it was an issue of money not being collected at the expected time to make up for the monthly budget to meet the government’s commitments in terms of salaries.
“He highlighted the challenges faced in terms of collecting the money on time. But as government workers we feel that there’s need to prioritise the payment of civil servants on the gazetted dates,” said Gundane.
The government, he added, should never find itself in a situation where it fails to pay salaries and bonuses.
“This country is well endowed with resources and has the capacity to generate wealth and the government should therefore be in a position to marshal enough resources to meet its obligations,” said Gundane.
He said the NJNC meeting will discuss pension deductions, outstanding bonuses and other critical issues that relate to the welfare of government workers.
Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Manuel Nyawo said following their meeting with Mangudya, they had concluded there was no need for a premature industrial action.
“He (Mangudya) took us through what government has in its coffers and the reasons for the delays in the payment of salaries,” he said.
“He assured us that bonuses will be paid and that those owed will get their salaries as announced.”
Public Service Association president, Cecelia Alexander, whose constituency is yet to get paid, said the meeting had given the workers an “in-depth understanding of how the economy is performing.”
“They told us what government has gone through to make us earn,” she said.
Interviewed yesterday, Mangudya said the meeting was a routine consultative one with their partners.
“We usually do such meetings with stakeholders in preparation for the monetary policy review. The Apex Council happens to be one of our stakeholders. It’s important for us to discuss the economic situation, the cash dispensations and to also hear the concerns and ideas that our stakeholders have to improve the economy,” said Mangudya.
The Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctor’s Association (ZHDA) and the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) yesterday threatened to down tools starting today if the government does not give them meaningful allowances.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Gerald Gwinji ordered all health institutions to provide transport or bus fare to health workers in critical areas between today and Tuesday to ensure that all departments remain operational while they wait for their salaries.
The health workers, however, rejected the $1 per day allowances.
ZHDA spokesperson, Francis Rwodzi said they wanted their full salaries and bonuses so that they live in dignity with their families.
“We advise the Ministry of Health that doctors, nurses and other health workers will fail to come to work with effect from January 1, 2016 should the employer fail to provide a meaningful bailout package to cover transport expenses, daily living allowances and basic expenses. This package must not be imposed but be agreed by both parties.”
Labour lawyers yesterday said the right to strike did not apply to civil servants, adding that Section 65 of Constitution “does not saddle an employer with any legal obligation to pay a striking employee.”
Labour lawyer, Caleb Mucheche, said while Section 65 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe gave employees the right to strike, that privilege could be limited to maintain essential services.
“Section 86 of the Constitution contains a limitation clause, which can also restrict the right to strike,” he said.
“In the case of private sector employees, in terms of Section 104 (1) of the Labour Act, a lawful strike is only permissible to resolve disputes of interest and not disputes of right. Section 3 of the Labour Act provides that the Labour Act does not apply to members of the public service thereby meaning that all restrictions on the right to strike in the Labour Act do not apply to public service employees.”
“For private sector employees, Section 104 (1) of the Labour Act outlaws a strike in a dispute of right such as this one on nonpayment of salaries. This is not the case with public service employees who directly draw their right to strike from section 65 (3) of the Constitution which makes no distinction between a dispute of right and a dispute of interest when it comes to the right to resort to a collective job action. Under the common law, an employer can lawfully withhold paying employees’ salaries.
“There is a potential grave risk that employees who embark on a strike may lose remuneration for the duration of their strike.
“A strike is a double edged sword that will result in the employer having a legal right not to pay such striking employee for the period of the strike. It is ironic to strike for non-payment of a salary and then give the employer a legal right not to pay a salary for the period you are on strike.”
Civil Service Commission regulations call for engagement between the government and civil servants and if no solution is found, an independent arbitrator comes into play.
If the arbitrator’s decision is disputed by the employees, they can give a 14-day strike notice.