SW Radio Africa
By Tererai Karimakwenda
16 January 2014
Negotiators representing government and civil servants failed to reach a deal again during crucial talks on Wednesday, after the workers rejected an offer that fell short of their demands for a basic wage increase in line with Poverty Datum Line.
Unions representing civil servants rejected a government offer that would have seen the lowest paid workers earning $375 per month, which falls far short of the $540 PDL set by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and promised by Robert Mugabe himself ahead of elections last year.
The deal offered by government would also have seen deputy directors’ wages increase from $521 per month to $623. Newly qualified teachers, who currently earn $446 per month, were offered $500 monthly.
Although the APEX Council which represents workers turned down the government offer, they are reported to have agreed to consult with their constituents and report back for another meeting Friday.
APEX chairperson Richard Gundani is quoted as saying: “Government has brought a inconclusive proposal” and “they gave us time to revisit the figures and we hope to reach an agreement on Friday.”
The government team, led by Maxwell Ranga, was also due to consult their superiors ahead of the Friday meeting, according to state media.
But Takavafira Zhou, President of the Progressive Teachers union of Zimbabwe , blasted government for being insincere on many levels, saying civil servants were dealing with “conniving politicians who do not live up to their word”.
“The government is not sincere. It claims always to have limited fiscal space when there is rampant corruption in Zimbabwe. Unless we give civil servants priority in terms of the budget and of planning in the country we will continue to wallow in poverty,” Zhou told SW Radio Africa on Thursday.
He accused government leaders of being uncaring and reckless by conniving to divide workers and polarizing the country on issues of national importance.
“This also presents a challenge to civil servants that we must remain united, regroup and prepare for a possible showdown unless the employer can give something which is credible to the employees,” Zhou explained.
It is not clear how government plans to deal with the issue of civil servants’ wages. In his 2014 budget statement Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament that the wage bill for 2013 had swallowed up 75% of revenue. He said that this needed to be reduced to 30% by 2018.