FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube yesterday poured cold water on civil servants’ demand for United States dollar-benchmarked salary adjustments, saying the broke Zanu PF government will, instead, continue giving them cushioning allowances.
Civil servants have threatened to down tools unless government adjusts their salaries to the equivalent of what they used to earn during the US dollar era.
At the moment, the least-paid government employee gets a gross salary of around $1 100.
While presenting the 2020 national budget last November, Ncube reviewed the tax threshold from $700 to $2 000.
Last week, the public service workers shot down a 97% salary increase offered by government and threatened a crippling nationwide strike, with teachers boycotting classes starting today.
Addressing journalists on the sidelines of a meeting between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and visiting Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi at State House, Ncube ruled out substantial salary increases for civil servants, saying government had other pressing commitments at the moment, among them drought relief food and energy imports.
He said civil servants will get their January allowances of between $400 (US$16) and $750 (US$32) starting today.
“The government is committed to paying our civil servants a decent salary and you know when you negotiate, there are disagreements. At times that is normal, but we are expecting to reach an agreement with them in a few weeks,” he said.
“We are not going to agree on a once-off agreement, but we will follow last year’s trend, where we were cushioning them whenever there is inflation. We will (have) multiple negotiations as we did when we gave them cushioning allowance in May, salary increment and another cushion in July.
“We do have some urgent issues like climate change, food security and energy and also we are mobilising resources for Command Agriculture. We are also seized with issuing licences to independent energy suppliers to produce energy.”
The Apex Council, the umbrella body for civil servants’ unions, described Ncube’s remarks as misplaced and out of sync with the reality on the ground.
“We only respect pronouncements that arise out of resolutions made in the National Joint Negotiating Council, as they are binding. If at all this is the government’s position, then it really shows how out of touch it is with the dire incapacitation that is set to impact negatively on service delivery and the livelihoods of its workers,” Apex Council spokesperson David Dzatsunga said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure confirmed that their members were not reporting for duty today.
“Government last paid teachers a full salary in September 2018. We have been earning 7% of the last negotiated income. Attempts to engage the government have been futile since then. An ordinary teacher’s salary cannot fend for food, shelter, transport, education and healthcare,” he said.