GOVERNMENT business is now headed for a grinding halt after salary negotiations collapsed yesterday, as civil servants rejected their employer’s “paltry” 10% pay rise offer and vowed to down tools in the next two weeks.
By Everson Mushava
The stalemate will likely pile more pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime, which is already seeking to reduce its wage bill and battling a worsening economic meltdown.
Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander yesterday confirmed that the civil servants’ umbrella body had turned down government’s salary adjustment, which would have seen the least paid employee get a $41 increase.
Alexander was addressing journalists soon after yesterday’s National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting in Harare.
The NJNC brings together government and civil servants staff unions for negotiations over salaries and other working conditions.
Alexander said the Apex Council would meet today to chart the way forward after government fell far short of their demands for a minimum wage of $1 733 for the least-paid civil servant.
“We are just coming out of the NJNC. The purpose of the meeting was to get a response from government on a position that we presented in November 2018, which was amounting to $1 733 for the least paid worker in government,” Alexander said.
“We submitted this in November and it is quite disturbing that government brought a 10% offer, which translates to only $41 for the least paid civil servant.
“As Apex Council negotiators, we have rejected this offer in totality and now, we are going to give feedback to our constituency, which will advise us on the way forward.”
On Monday, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare acting minister July Moyo met the restive government workers’ union leaders and assured them that he would table an attractive offer at yesterday’s crunch meeting.
The meeting came after teachers threatened a crippling industrial action when schools opened for the first term this week, amid reports that some teachers were yet to report for duty since opening day on Tuesday.
“We were angered that government said the 10% increment could only be effected at the beginning of April, meaning from January up until March, there will be nothing. So, looking at the prevailing situation, we have noted that it is unattainable,” Alexander said.
“We proposed $1 733 as minimum wage for public workers and we got to that figure after looking at the prices, meaning we are not even asking for an increment, but only asking for them to restore value of the money we used to get.”
She said they would be holding a full Apex Council meeting today, “so we will have a position by then”.
The Apex Council said government indicated it could not meet its workers’ demands because it was working under a tilted economic landscape.
“They said they have a $160 million quantum from April to December, which is supposed to cater for all civil servants including uniformed forces,” Apex Council secretary David Dzatsunga said.
“We have given a 14-day notice for an industrial action which means we are operating under the window period. So it is up to government to expedite the process.”
No government representatives addressed the media after the meeting which was described by the Apex Council, in a statement, as a “damp squib”.
Mnangagwa’s government has since last year’s disputed presidential election been battling to contain growing discontent over the escalating cost of living characterised by shortages and arbitrary price increases for commodities and services.
Mnangagwa is yet to issue a public statement on the myriad of challenges affecting the ordinary majority Zimbabweans.