Felex Share, Harare Bureau
Cabinet has approved principles on the amendment of the Public Service Act as Government moves to allow civil servants to engage in collective bargaining as enshrined in the Constitution.
Civil servants have for long been pressing to engage in collective bargaining with their employer and the envisaged amendments will remove inconsistences which have frustrated the realisation of their quest over the years.
This comes as Government is in the process of decompressing grades of civil servants in a bid to pay them according to experience, seniority and qualifications.
The Government has also asked its workers to prepare a position paper on their conditions of service for deliberations to take place.
These developments came out during a National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting in Harare last Friday.
The NJNC brings together Government and civil servants negotiators. This was the first meeting under the new dispensation.
Apex Council chairwoman Mrs Cecelia Alexander led the civil servants while the Government team leader was Mr Simon Masanga.
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Alexander hailed the progress made towards reviewing the Public Service Act.
“We have been told that the principles for the harmonisation of the laws and, principally, amendment to the Public Service Act have been approved by Cabinet,” she said.
“It is an issue we have been waiting for because it is these amendments which will give us the right to collective bargaining as enshrined in Section 65 of the Constitution. As it stands, we don’t have bargaining power. We have been told that a first draft Bill is being prepared for debate in Parliament,” Mrs Alexander said.
“With respect to the Collective Bargaining Council, a committee of four people, two from each side, was mandated to convene and make recommendations to the NJNC on how the structure should be established.”
Mrs Alexander said Government had started de-bunching civil servants’ salary grades.
“Following Apex Council’s request for Government to implement the 2014 agreement to raise the salary of the lowest paid worker to the poverty datum line, the meeting resolved that labour crafts a more current position paper for deliberation at the next meeting,” she said.
“Our salaries have been eroded by the price madness though Government has made some interventions. The market continues to behave wildly and we need salaries to be linked to the PDL.
“Coupled with this, Government confirmed that work on de-bunching of salary grades is now in progress. A lot of civil servants are bunched in more or less the same grade regardless of academic (qualification) and professional skills as well as experience, responsibilities and additional tasks.”
Bunching of workers started during the formalisation of the multi-currency system in 2009 where civil servants were initially paid a uniform US$100.
She said teachers would know Government’s position on their vacation leave during the next NJNC meeting scheduled for May 11.
Said Mrs Alexander: “Government agreed that it is a statutory right (taking leave) whose suspension was done for expediency.”
Government deferred vacation leave for teachers in 2016 as a cost-cutting measure.
It cited a lack of resources to pay relief teachers during the three-month period that full-time teachers would be away.
Government was spending an estimated $2,5 million in outsourcing services from relief teachers.