ZIMBABWE’S restive civil servants have managed to nudge government into negotiations after they threatened to embark on a nationwide strike starting next week in protest over their poor salaries and the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, in a bid to avert a crippling strike, yesterday invited all heads of civil servants’ unions to a crisis meeting in Harare on Monday to address their welfare, amid threats by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the opposition MDC to join the industrial action.
Labour and Social Welfare acting minister July Moyo said all union leaders must attend without fail.
“The meeting is part of the commitment of government to engage with all its employees in pursuit of developing common positions in relation to the improvement of employee salaries and generally resolve any matters that impact their conditions of service,” he said in a statement.
Government workers, particularly teachers, had threatened to down tools on schools’ opening day on Tuesday if government failed to pay them in hard currency or increase their salaries to at least $3 000.
Moyo said besides union leaders, the meeting would also be attended by Labour, Finance, Primary and Secondary Education, Higher and Tertiary Education ministers and the chairperson of the Public Service Commission.
The meeting comes at a time government has failed to resolve the doctors’ month-long strike over similar grievances.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said his union was already consulting structures to come up with a common position ahead of the Monday meeting.
“We are consulting and ready to talk with the employer on issues that affect our membership. We are ready for that important meeting,” he said.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said although they had not yet been officially invited to the meeting, they viewed it as an attempt to stop the imminent strike.
“We wonder why the employer had to wait until the 11th hour to attend to our issues, when it is very clear that we raised these issues long back?” Zhou said.
“It is an attempt to stop the strike or any industrial action. But we will see how the issue pans out. If they invite us under Apex Council, we will not attend the meeting. That Apex thing is a useless thing, which has a tendency to massage the employer. But if we are called as independent teacher unions, we will attend.”
Apex Council chairperson, Cecilia Alexander was not reachable for comment last night.