Joseph Madzimure/Elita Chikwati/Nqobile Tshili
FINANCE and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube yesterday said Government is seized with addressing salaries for civil servants and the issues will be solved in a few weeks’ time.
The Government last week offered civil servants a 100 percent pay rise in a move that will result in the least paid worker taking home $2 033, up from $1 023 per month and has promised to pay $750 this week as a cushioning allowance for January.
Civil servants rejected the offer and continued with the demand of pay set in foreign currency and paid at the interbank rate on pay day, with the salary equivalent to US$475 for the lowest-paid worker.
Addressing journalists at State House yesterday, Minister Ncube said Government had other pressing issues that also required equal attention.
He said the issues included ensuring national food security, power generation, job creation and stabilising the local currency.
“We are negotiating with civil servants against the vagaries of inflation,” said Minister Ncube. “Those negotiations are making progress. When negotiating there can be disagreements and that is normal. But we as the employer, we are going to make sure there is a decent salary for civil servants.
“We appreciate the work that they do and also we are going to honour that by this cushioning allowance. It is our expectation that we come to some agreement in the next few weeks so that we can move forward.”
Minister Ncube said Government was going to repeat what happened last year when civil servants were awarded cushioning allowances and adjustments constantly.
“Last year we did it twice during the year,” he said. “We had a cushioning allowance and then had another adjustment in April last year, another adjustment in July and a bonus in November. So, this year again, we will follow a similar pattern with multiple points to cushion civil servants.”
Civil servants’ unions met in Harare yesterday and reiterated that Government pays them salaries linked to the interbank rate based on what they used to earn when the US$ was at par with the local currency.
In an interview following the Apex Council meeting, council chairperson Mrs Cecelia Alexander said Government’s offer of $2 033 for the lowest paid civil servant was not acceptable as it does not address their concerns.
Apex Council is the umbrella body representing all the civil servants’ organisations in the country.
Mrs Alexander said civil servants are not demanding a pay rise but a wage that tallies with changes in the macroeconomic environment.
“The Government should respond to our position paper, presented to them in 2019 whose substantive demand is that October 2018 salary of US$475 for the lowest paid civil servant must be multiplied by the ongoing interbank rate. An interbank rated salary is the only way to restore the value of wages. Any other interventions would not work given the hyperinflationary environment which negates any RTGS$ increase,” said Mrs Alexander.
“In light of the above the civil servants Apex Council would like to declare as fact to the employer that civil servants are now severely incapacitated and there would be increased non-attendance from work station as a result.”
She said workers were not on strike and those who can report for duty should do so.
“Incapacitation and a strike are two different things. Incapacitation is something that is beyond one’s control. It means that if I cannot afford to travel then I can’t be expected to maybe walk 20km to go to work. I cannot also be expected to borrow money to subsidise the system. It also affects people differently, others would be able to report for duty while others will not,” she said.
“What we are saying is that we want to protect those who cannot afford to go to work. Because if you look at the offer by Government against what is obtaining on the ground, you can see the gap and the million-dollar question is who is going to fund that gap.”
Mrs Alexander said the interbank rate-indexed salaries make sense for employees as goods and services have been priced in the same manner.
She said the Apex Council will notify the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Professor Paul Mavima about their latest decision.
Prof Mavima could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) tweeted yesterday:
“Zim teachers are incapacitated and cannot turn up for duty, on 14 January 2020. (It’s) Sad that, the teacher who should uphold the quality of education is incapacitated. #Spare a thought for the incapacitated teacher.”