Government yesterday offered its workers a 10 percent salary increment beginning next April, a figure that would translate into an additional $160 million to its wage bill by December, but the workers’ representatives rejected the offer, saying they wanted to consult their membership first.
The workers are demanding a $1 733 salary for the least-paid employee, up from $414 inclusive of allowances, which would represent an increase of 419 percent.
This however, flies in the face of austerity measures which the Government is implementing to reduce the national budget deficit and advance President Mnangagwa’s ambitious vision to turn Zimbabwe into an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Earlier this week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube was in Brussels, Belgium, where he said the country was implementing a raft of measures to cut its deficit and debt, appealing to Zimbabweans to swallow the bitter pill required to turn around the economy.
“What is required is urgent and bold action, and tough decisions,” declared Minister Ncube on Wednesday.
“We cannot run away from the challenge — the longer we wait to address it, the harder it will be,” he said.
The demand by civil servants means Government must find over $1 billion this year to meet the increments only.
Speaking after yesterday’s National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC)meeting in Harare, Apex Council chairwoman Mrs Cecelia Alexander said they would consult their membership on Government’s offer and the way forward.
The two parties are likely to meet again next week as Government negotiators also asked for time to brief their principals after the 10 percent offer was turned down.
“The purpose of the meeting was to get response from Government on a position that we presented to the NJNC in November last year, which was amounting to $1 733 for the least-paid worker,” said Mrs Alexander.
“It is quite disturbing that Government brought a 10 percent 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 back to give feedback to our constituencies who will advise us on the way forward,” she said.
She said the Government had presented $160 million towards the increment spread between April and December.
“Government wanted that quantum to cater for all civil servants and us to go on and distribute it according to the various areas. We also rejected that,” she said.
She said the workers would meet tomorrow to debate the way forward.
“Consultations will not take long because we are going to have a fully constituted Apex Council meeting tomorrow (today).The full council will come up with a resolution,” said Mrs Alexander.
She said their salaries had been eroded by price distortions in the market.
“We are not requesting for an increment from Government but we want them to restore value of the money we used to get since July last year when we got a 17.5 percent increment,” she added.
Mrs Alexander said the issue of non-monetary incentives did not come up.
“We did not go there because there was a more pressing issue (of salaries). So it is up to and in the interest of Government to expedite the process. We believe the ball is still in their court. We are likely to meet them next week because when we rejected the offer they said they were going to consult their principals,” said Mrs Alexander.
Government, which has acknowledged the challenges faced by its workers, has also proposed a range of non-monetary benefits for its workers. These include residential stands, housing mortgages, vehicle loan schemes and access to medical care and insurance cover.
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.
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.