By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
10 January 2014
Senior MDC-T legislator Paurina Mpariwa has accused ZANU PF of hiding behind the law to violate the rights of civil servants, who are threatening to strike over a delayed pay rise.
In the run-up to last year’s elections, senior ZANU PF officials including President Robert Mugabe himself pledged to increase civil service wages and to improve working conditions.
Zimbabwe’s ordinary civil servants are the worst paid in the region, with most of them on an average monthly wage of $300 – well below the poverty threshold of $600.
It’s now almost six months since the party assumed power. But despite efforts by civil servants’ unions to engage their employer over the issue, there is nothing to indicate that the government has the appetite to honour its promises.
Restive civil servants have threatened industrial action starting next week when schools open. Labour Minister Nicholas Goche warned that any such move should be done according to the labour law, and that he should be notified first.
But Shadow Labour Minister Mpariwa says it is every worker’s constitutional right to engage in industrial action and Goche should be bargaining rather than issuing threats.
“The new constitution enshrines and articulates these rights more clearly than the Labour Act that Goche is referring to,” Mpariwa told SW Radio Africa Friday.
Mpariwa accused the ZANU PF government of delaying the process of aligning old laws with the new constitution to serve its own ends.
“The Public Service Act is still being used to manage the civil service and is preventing workers from enjoying their full constitutional rights, including the right to collective bargaining and to legitimate industrial action.”
“If old laws remain unaligned to the new charter, even current salary negotiations between the unions and government will continue to be just a talk-shop, and that is why Goche can afford to threaten and intimidate workers,” Mpariwa added.
She said her party wants ZANU PF to pay workers decent salaries that are pegged in line with the poverty datum line, and to do so on time.
The MDC-T official accused ZANU PF of a lack of concern for the welfare of workers, adding that the ruling party’s hostile policies were to blame for the collapse of industry in the country, which had rendered millions jobless.
“It is worrying that many companies are slipping into liquidation, voluntary or judicial management, throwing thousands out of the job market because ZANU PF has killed both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.
“Over 300 companies have been liquidated in recent months while 149 companies have filed for liquidation at the High Court and over 300 workers are being retrenched on a weekly basis. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“It is clear that while they succeeded in rigging the July 31st election, they are failing to rig the economy,” Mpariwa added – Read the MP’s full statement here.
On Wednesday, minister Goche told the State media that public servants will receive salary increments backdated to January this year once negotiations have been completed.
“They will get their increments backdated to January. Government has written to the staff associations to call for a meeting where it will respond to their proposals,” Goche told the Herald newspaper.
However, in an interview with SW Radio Africa Wednesday union leader Takavafira Zhou said the government had so far shown no commitment to resolve the wage dispute – see here.