In April the Government committed to pay its workers a 70 percent salary increment staggered over four months.
As it continues to strive to pay its workers a living wage notwithstanding a challenging economic environment, it effected the first payment of 25 percent that month, pledging to pay 45 percent this month. As negotiations continued, the Government in May increased its offer to 75 percent, 25 percent that had been paid a month earlier and 50 percent to be paid this month.
Indeed, the employer has further increased its employees’ salaries by half as pledged. As we reported yesterday, the award is being paid on a sliding scale, which means that highest paid civil servant got about 45 percent more on their June salary, while the lowest paid worker got 50 percent above their June pay.
They got the salary jump which must be very welcome but in addition to that, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister, Lovemore Matuke told Chronicle, civil servants will continue to be eligible for a range of incentives that, in the final analysis, boost their overall earnings way, way above whatever amount is stated on their pay slips.
“There are loans being provided to civil servants so that they can start businesses, there was also a vehicle scheme to import vehicles duty free, this has been rolling for about 10 years and is pending renewal,” he said.
“We also are looking into the issue of housing. We are working on providing civil servants with accommodation and this is gradually happening. There are a number of options and some of the options will be coming from their unions suggesting how we can improve their welfare but on the side of Government we welcome all suggestions that will benefit our employees.”
The economic situation has been difficult in recent years. Illegal western sanctions have done much to weaken the economy. This has hindered the capacity of the Government to pay its employees as much as it wants; and as much as its employees expect.
But even with the sanctions, it is evident that the economy is strengthening. Investment is rising on the back of pro-business policies that the Government is putting in place. Foreign currency is now more easily accessible through the auction system superintended by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Because companies are getting their foreign currency needs on the transparent, legal platform at competitive rates, they aren’t relying on the opaque, illegal street market where rates tended to be ever-rising. As a result of the auction market, prices of goods and services have generally stabilised since June last year. Inflation is declining too.
That price stability is giving wages better value. The worker can plan more effectively. His or her wage can buy things of value now.
Covid-19 has obviously drawn that progress back. Industrial activity, while increasing on previous years’ level, has been slowed down. There have been some job losses thus demand for various goods and services has been adversely impacted.
Despite all these difficulties, the Government has been able to increase its workers’ wages by 75 percent in four months. In addition to that, the workers can import vehicles duty-free, enjoy free transport to and from work, have easier access to loans at attractive interest rates, enjoy free accommodation and will soon receive housing stands.
We agree with civil servants that they deserve higher salaries. In a letter to civil servants’ leaders recently, the President acknowledged that fact. However, we feel that the Government deserves commendation for continuing to give its workers salary increases and the incentives.
The private sector employee, who has traditionally earned higher than the civil servant, must have been overtaken, in real terms, by the government worker in terms of salary and working conditions.
The challenge is now on the private sector to also give its workers a better deal, not to just bask in the old glory – in many cases now nonexistent – of being better employers.