Workers demand US dollar salaries

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Tendai Kamhungira

©️  CIVIL servants have demanded full United States (US) dollar salaries after the government on Wednesday awarded them a US$75 Covid-19 allowance and a 50 percent salary increment.

Workers yesterday told the Daily News they were not consulted on the new salary structure, even though it was part of the agreement that any increment will be negotiated.

Apex Council, a body that represents civil servants, said while the government had taken a step in the right direction, it was not happy that there were no negotiations through the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC).

“Apex Council stands by its position paper that it presented to the NJNC demanding that salaries for civil servants be paid in USD and that the figures be a product of negotiation.

“As far as the 50 percent salary adjustment is concerned, we take note but want to clarify that it is thumb-suck and not with our input,” Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander said.

The government’s decision to make part payments in US dollars comes as the country’s battered economy is fast approaching the horrors of a decade ago when the Zimbabwe dollar was decimated by hyper-inflation — with the prices of most basic consumer goods now out of reach of ordinary citizens.

Workers have been demanding US$550 every month, which is equivalent to what they were getting in October 2017.

The government had however, agreed to review the civil servants’ salaries after every four months. The last time the salaries had been reviewed was in January, with the next meeting having been scheduled for April.

However, this was affected by the Covid-19-induced lockdown, with workers last week demanding an urgent meeting with the government, only to be awarded the 50 percent increment as well as the US$75 Covid-19 allowance.

The government also awarded pensioners a flat, nontaxable Covid-19 allowance of US$30 per month.
Apex yesterday said matters to do with conditions of service were supposed to be a product of consultation between social partners at forums provided for at law.

“In conclusion, the civil service Apex Council appreciates government’s efforts to address the plight of its workers and the acknowledgment, though belated, that the economy has effectively dollarised and so should salaries.

“This therefore buttresses our call for an urgent NJNC meeting to deliberate on salaries and conditions for workers in order to co-own the outcomes as demanded for at the law,” Alexander said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe, said they were also not consulted on the government’s decision.

“Government must come clean on what the US$75 is. There is so much confusion on the money.
“We do not know who the government negotiated with to come up with such an amount, because we were not consulted. We do not need a Father Christmas kind of government.

“Mthuli Ncube (Finance minister) and the government are simply imposing that on us and we are worried about this trend.

“Government has reduced our salaries by 40 percent and increased it by 50 percent, meaning workers only got a 10 percent salary increase.

“Why call someone’s salary a Covid-19 allowance, meaning if there were locusts, they would call it locust allowance?” Majongwe asked.

The government’s step to reintroduce the US dollar has similarities with how the then administration of the late former president Robert Mugabe introduced the stability-inducing multi-currency system in 2009.

Then, the country abandoned its worthless currency, which according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), had scaled past 500 billion percent.

Despite the system having served the country well, Ncube made a surprise U-turn in June last year, after reintroducing the Zimbabwean dollar as the sole currency of trade, resulting in the currency losing significant value over the past few months.

This resulted in the government reintroducing the use of the US dollar in March this year, as a way of cushioning retailers from the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa yesterday said as workers they rejected the money given by the government, saying they wanted full salaries in US dollars.

“Our demand has always been that we need a holistic approach to address the economic situation. We need political reforms that are pro-poor. In the interim, the government must dollarise and give workers their full salaries in US dollars,” Mutasa said.

He said there was a lot of confusion pertaining to the current position as announced by the government, as they were not sure if the money was going to be provided as hard currency, or it will simply work electronically.
Mutasa said the money given by the government was not enough to meet their demands.

“There is nothing they have given the workers. It is far below the poverty datum line, inflation trends. That is a mockery, we will continue demanding a full US dollar salary,” he said.


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