Civil servants in major climbdown

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HARD-PRESSED civil servants, who had been demanding a significant pay rise, made a surprise climbdown yesterday when they agreed to a 41 percent salary increment, just a week after they had rejected a 40 percent
adjustment.
This comes as the public sector workers were demanding to be paid at least US$420 or the equivalent in local currency using the foreign currency auction rate.

Following negotiations last week, the government had put the 40 percent offer on the table, but the civil servants shot it down, saying it was way short of their demands.

Secretary general of the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU), formerly the Apex Council, David Dzatsunga told the Daily News yesterday that they had clinched a deal with the government.

“We signed an agreement which will allow the government to proceed to pay a 41 percent increment of the total package, which is basic salary, transport allowance, housing allowance, special civil service allowance and representation allowance.

“We did it for the workers, we agreed because the government was saying they were not going to put another offer on the table. We agreed because we are at the end of the financial year and it’s time for the bonus payment. We
are now putting our hopes on the national budget,” Dzatsunga said.

He also said the government will pay the 13th cheque, which includes basic pay, transport allowance and housing allowance.

The increase, which takes effect from November 1, would see the lowest paid civil servant earning $14 528 a month.

It also means that the least paid teacher would now get $18 237 a month, with all educators to be given an extra 10 percent of their salaries as a risk allowance.

Teachers have been on strike since September’s staggered reopening of schools, demanding to be paid in foreign currency. Before yesterday’s meeting, Dzatsunga’s deputy, Gibson Mushangu, described the increment as unacceptable.

“We still reiterate that nothing is for us without us. The government just imposed the figures. “Unfortunately, this figure comes before the NJNC (National Joint Negotiating Conference) meeting set for Friday. We are not there to just rubber-stamp the government’s offer.

“The figure must come through engagement. The so-called increment lacks our ownership and it has nothing to do with us,” Mushangu told the Daily News.

“Our demands are still the same. We need salaries equivalent to the US dollars we were getting before the re-introduction of the local currency,” he added.

Before the re-introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar, civil servants were earning about US$520 a month. At the beginning of the year, most civil servants, teachers included, earned below $5 000 a month. Since January, the government has increased public sector salaries significantly.

This comes as the industrial action by teachers has paralysed learning, amid calls that the government must call off this year’s public examinations.

Nurses and doctors have also been pressing for better remuneration, and want their salaries paid in foreign currency.

This comes as the final phase of the reopening of public schools countrywide suffered a setback last week after many teachers failed to turn up for work — forcing some overwhelmed school heads to send learners back home.

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