Public sector unions on Monday gave the government a 48-hour ultimatum to make a new salary offer or face a strike after wage negotiations reached a deadlock, raising the prospect of more unrest following this month’s violent protests.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is under pressure to deliver on pre-election promises to revive the economy.
Mnangagwa’s government has also come under severe criticism for a crackdown on protests over a fuel price hike that rights groups say killed over a dozen people and injured scores.
The Apex Council, which groups 16 civil service unions, said government negotiators did not bring a new offer at a meeting on Monday. More talks are set for Wednesday, Apex Council secretary David Dzatsunga told reporters after a four-hour meeting.
“The Apex council gives the government up to the meeting of Wednesday, January 30, 2019, or face inevitable job action,” said Dzatsunga.
Unions want to be paid in United States dollars or have the monthly salary of the lowest paid worker increased from $414 to $1,700. There are 305,000 civil servants, including security forces.
With inflation at 42 percent, its highest since 2008, and a shortage of cash in circulation eroding ordinary Zimbabweans’ spending power, the fragile state of the economy is at the heart of the country’s political troubles.
Mnangagwa promised during campaigning for the July 2018 presidential vote, which he won amid charges of fraud from the opposition, to repair the economy.
But security forces dispersed demonstrations by force and cracked down on activists, sparking international condemnation.
Several opposition officials and activists have gone into hiding and police said on Monday they wanted to question at least 27 of them over the January 14-16 strike that turned into violent street protests.
On Monday, Mnangagwa said he had told authorities to arrest security forces filmed by Sky News assaulting a man in handcuffs. Last week, he promised action on security forces who committed violence during the crackdown.