Government has said it remains sensitive to the plight of civil servants and as such it is striving to cushion them against wanton increases in the prices of basic commodities. The civil servants have this year been paid a cost of living adjustment (COLA) twice and Government has already announced that it is paying them annual bonus inclusive of their allowances.
Government is also offering non-monetary incentives such as housing stands as part of measures to improve the welfare of its workers. We therefore want to appeal to civil servants to also consider the general performance of the economy when negotiating for better salaries.
We appreciate the need for Government and the rest of employers to pay a living wage but the issue of affordability cannot be ignored. Many employers in the private sector have not paid COLA and workers are therefore struggling to raise money to even come to work.
Many families are going hungry because what workers are now earning cannot meet the basics because of the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities. We however need to point out that the solution is not paying salaries based on the inter-bank rate as is being suggested because it is not sustainable.
It is unfortunate that civil servants are demanding to be paid inter-bank rate salaries when they know very well that this is not feasible. For example the Ministry of Health and Child Care salary bill is $430 million per month and at the minimum inter-bank rate of US$1:$10 this would translate to a salary bill of $4 billion per month.
Government does not have this kind of money and it will be reckless on its part to agree to pay what it cannot afford. It is the civil servants who have information on Government’s revenue inflows and should use this information to come up with realistic salaries that take into account the many competing national demands.
Government has already made an undertaking to review COLA next year and we want to implore the civil servants to be patient.
The fact that Government is staggering the payment of the promised bonus over two months is a confirmation of the limited resources at its disposal and civil servants should appreciate this.
The many competing national demands include importing grain, providing inputs for farmers, providing food relief to food insecure families and subsidising commuters under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) scheme.
We want to once again urge civil servants to continue engaging Government as opposed to downing tools as what the doctors did.
Every citizen should appreciate that our economy has been stagnant for almost two decades and coming out of the woods is not an event but a process that can take years.