Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
CIVIL servants have said it would be illegal for the Government to cut salaries and suspend bonuses for the next two years as part of austerity measures to bring the economy back on track.
Yesterday, the civil servants leaders rejected the Government’s proposal, saying they would meet workers to decide the course of action.
Presenting the Mid-Term Policy Review, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa said the Government will suspend civil servants bonuses for two years as well as reduce their salaries and allowances.
Minister Chinamasa said through its raft of measures to reduce the wage bill, the Government expects to save around $118 million by the end of 2016.
The country is saving $6.5 million monthly through the wage bill rationalisation measures that were introduced since January this year.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) president Mr Richard Gundane said the Government’s policy review was in bad taste and unacceptable. He said it was illegal for the Government to unilaterally alter civil servants contracts, which have a provision for an annual 13th cheque.
Mr Gundane said the Government should focus its energies on revitalising the economy instead of making unnecessary cuts that may even be insignificant in a functioning economy.
He said the payment of a bonus or 13th cheque was guaranteed in the civil servant’s contract of employment hence it could not be withdrawn without consulting the civil servants.
“The pronouncements that were made to cut allowances, salaries and suspending bonuses are not acceptable. You won’t have a motivated worker, this will affect service delivery. We’re going to contest this. We will meet as civil servants and discuss the way forward,” he said.
Apex council president Mrs Cecilia Alexander said the Government decision was short-sighted, shocking and inconsiderate to its employees.
Mrs Alexander said the State seems to be keen on downsizing spending and was turning a blind eye on service delivery which is critical.
She said the Government should explore other means instead of sacrificing jobs. “While the intent to reduce the civil service wage bill is cited as the premise of the International Money Fund inspired cuts, we the workers do not believe the economy will benefit from such a move,” she said.
Mrs Alexander said the Government Mid Term Policy was a violation of the employees’ constitutional right to consult and be consulted.
“To start with; the budget proposals on the so called civil service rationalisation is being made without due consultation and thus in breach of workers’ constitutional right to consult and be consulted.
“The Minister then proposes that these measures will be subject to consultation with unions which is a clear case of closing the stables when the horses have bolted. The Apex Council wishes by this statement to unequivocally reject the budget proposals by the Minister of Finance regarding retrenchments, salary cuts and suspension of bonuses,” said Mrs Alexander.
“We believe these measures are ill-conceived and can only further entrench the doom and gloom that has become the lot of the average civil servant.”
She said the Government’s policy comes at a time when its employees were already wallowing in abject poverty.
Mrs Alexander said as workers’ representatives, they will engage the Government to discuss the way forward before taking a position. “The Apex Council will seek an urgent audience with government to get a full appraisal on these proposals before making a full response,” said Mrs Alexander.