Editorial Comment

Carrot and stick approach won’t work

ON Tuesday, the government made two pronouncements — one improving the salaries and conditions of service for teachers and the rest of the civil service; and the other threatening disciplinary action against striking educators.

The government, clearly in a panic mode, increased civil servants’ salaries by 20 percent, while also giving them access to US$100 in hard currency, paying fees of up to three children at a cap of $20 000 per child per term and building 34 000 flats on school grounds.

It also offered to guarantee housing loans, provide transport to teachers and allow them to import cars duty free. On paper the offer sounds good, but in reality it’s far from the demands of teachers and the rest of civil servants. 

Besides other benefits, teachers downed tools when schools reopened on Monday demanding to be paid US$540 in hard currency, not the US$175 the government is offering.

Moreover, the offer is not an outcome of negotiations, but imposition by the government out of panic. 

We agree absolutely that half a loaf is better than nothing, but the offer should have been a subject of dialogue between the government and its workers.

And it appears the government is working against fiscal and monetary pronouncements made last week by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and central bank governor John Mangudya on the need to promote wider use of local currency and ensure it is competitive against major currencies.

The two were clear that Zimbabwe will not allow re-dollarisation, but the actions of the government speak otherwise — a clear case of policy inconsistency. 

The government has set a precedent by partly paying its workers in hard currency. Soon workers in the private sector would demand to be paid in the same currency, that is if they haven’t started clamouring for that.

The same day the government came up with an improved package for civil servants, the Primary and Secondary Education ministry was threatening to take stern action against teachers who went on strike to protest against poor remuneration and conditions of service.

Gunboat diplomacy is not effective. The threats were not necessary and should have been avoided.

It is our honest belief that a carrot and stick approach in this case does not work. 

There is a need for genuine dialogue between the government and its employees.

Government sympathising with workers in public and at political functions and then paying tokenism is not good enough. 

Civil servants have suffered enough and the government must deliver.