The Sunday News
GOVERNMENT and civil servants’ representatives are scheduled to meet this week to negotiate fresh salary adjustments and improved working conditions, amid eroding disposable income.
The new figures were scheduled to have been sealed in April but the requisite meetings could not be held due to Covid-19 challenges. Separately, Government is studying a set of proposals to cushion private sector workers agreed to by the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) at a recent meeting. The National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) comprising Government and public service representatives under the banner of the Apex Council last met in January.
They had agreed on a pay review and a further assessment in April. The easing of lockdown restrictions last month opened a window for negotiations to resume. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said Government was committed to comprehensively review its workers’ incomes.
“As Government we appreciate the need to cushion our workers against the tough economic environment. The NJNC should be meeting as the negotiating forum between Government and its employees. They last met in January when a minimum salary was agreed on, but we feel that there has been an erosion because of inflation. The issue of this erosion of incomes is well-appreciated by Government.”
High inflation and the devalued local unit have wreaked havoc for most workers whose incomes have lost significant value. Prices of basic goods and services have continued to skyrocket, while certain goods are now priced exclusively in US dollars by some retailers, amid stagnation of incomes and volatile parallel market exchange rates.
The lowest paid Government worker earns about $3 000 before deductions.
Prof Mavima said Government would, however, not commit to paying its workers in foreign currency as widely expected by the civil service.
“Our position is that we cannot remunerate our workers in US dollars. As Government we cannot run around looking for US dollars when we have just introduced a new currency.”
In a letter requesting the immediate convening of the NJNC to the forum’s chair and Government chief negotiator last week, Apex Council vice secretary Mr Gibson Mushangu said the meeting should address the “challenges which are drastically bedevilling the civil servants”.
Apex Council chairperson Ms Cecilia Alexander said most workers were hard-pressed to make ends meet.
“The workers are now in a very bad situation. When we go for negotiations we will press for salaries in US dollars. While we appreciate that it is good to have a local currency, the problem is that it is not storing value.”
The TNF, which brings together Government, business and labour, met on May 28 and committed to pushing through three distinct programmes to cushion hard-pressed workers and businesses.
It was resolved that employers should commit to frequent salary adjustments while Government explores the possibility of establishing an unemployment benefit scheme and expedite currency reforms.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) secretary-general, Japhet Moyo, told our Harare Bureau that most employers were failing to make salary adjustments according to inflation trends.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president Dr Israel Murefu said many businesses were either in intensive care or functionally dead and thus unable to review salaries.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdown had severely disrupted operations, markets and production value chains.
“Businesses are not only grappling with survival but escalating costs which threaten business viability. Therefore, given such a scenario, the first rule of thumb is to find ways of recovering and resuscitation back to life for many businesses. Survival is the priority so that jobs or employment can be saved or restored to pre-lockdown levels if possible.”
According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, a family of six now requires $5 551 for groceries a month while a further $2 666 is required for basic requirements such as housing, transport, health and clothing.