Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GOVERNMENT is concerned by the increase in prices of goods and services which is eroding civil servants’ salaries due to use of black-market forex rates by businesses.
To date, the Government has increased civil servants’ salaries twice amounting to a combined 75 percent increment, but the gains have been eroded by the ever-increasing prices of basic commodities.
Some businesses are using rates as high as $200 for US$1, which is beyond the reach of the majority of civil servants.
The official rate is at $87.66 for US$1, which only a few are buying from a selected bureau de changes.
In an interview yesterday, Public Service and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said the Government is very sincere about the welfare of its employees.
“We have increased (salaries) twice this year for a maximum of 75 percent. We almost have negotiation sessions every quarter. Government is very sincere about increasing civil servants’ salaries. We have laid some ground rules.
For example, the issue of the currency of payment. The National Joint Negotiation Council (NJNC) is due to meet soon for the next round,” he said.
Prof Mavima said the biggest challenge the nation faces is price instability.
“As soon as the Government increases their salaries, the salaries are eroded by increasing prices. There is therefore a need for a concerted effort at stabilising prices.”
Prof Mavima urged civil servants to be patient with the Government, which is committed to improving their conditions of service in line with the prevailing economic situation.
“The economy is on the rebound. All productive sectors are improving, mining and agriculture, for example. Once fundamentals are in place, prices will stabilise and will be predictable,” he said.
Government has availed numerous non-monetary incentives to cushion workers and will continue to fine-tune the non-monetary benefits of employees as it embarks on creating a conducive environment for workers.
Apex Council deputy secretary-general Mr Gibson Mushangu said the sad reality on the ground is that civil servants’ salaries have been eroded by inflation.
While commending the Government for the 75 percent salary increment, he said it has since lost value, adding that civil servants were facing financial challenges to meet day to day basic needs.
“We have asked the Government to convene a meeting to map a way forward. We need to address the salary challenges we are facing as civil servants,” Mr Mushangu said.
“We need our salaries cushioned. We are in dire need of Government’s timeous intervention and that is why we are calling for a meeting because things are getting out of hand. Yes in April to July civil servants got a salary increase of 25 percent and in July they got a 50 percent salary increase, but that is now peanuts because of the surge in prices of goods and commodities,” he said.
Residents have said parallel market rates are choking them as they cannot afford to pay rentals or make ends meet.
The rise in parallel market rates has caused prices of basic commodities to skyrocket beyond the reach of many.
Local currency earners are forced to buy forex on the black market at ridiculous rates to pay for most goods and services, which gobble their salaries.