Friday, 15 January 2010 07:26
Harare - A crisis meeting called by the Ministry of Public Service late on Wednesday in desperate attempts to avert a crippling strike in the next two weeks by civil servants ended in another deadlocked, setting the stage for a bruising confrontation between the coalition government and public workers.
(Pictured: Elphas Mukonoweshuro, the Minister of Public Service)
In a rare show of unity among the country's civil services, the Public Service Association (PSA), the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PUTZ) on Wednesday issued a fourteen-day ultimate to the coalition government, demanding substantial increases to their salaries and improvement in working conditions or risk a crippling strike.
On Monday the civil servants rejected a government offer to pay the highest public worker US$236 a month.
The civil servants want US$630, inclusive of housing and transport allowances, for the least paid civil servant per month, money the cash-strapped coalition government does not have.
Elphas Mukonoweshuro, the Minister of Public Service, together with his deputy Andrew Langa, later on Wednesday summoned representatives of PSA, ZIMTA and PUTZ in what sources said were fire-fighting measures to prevent a nationwide strike.
"We were called for a meeting by the Minister (Mukonoweshuro) but nothing came out of it," Sifiso Ndlovu, the chief executive officer of ZIMTA told VOP Radio on Thursday.
"The Minister said he will immediately take the issue to the principals, that is President (Robert) Mugabe, Prime Minister (Morgan) Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister (Arthur) Mutambara," said Ndlovu, adding that civil servants union leaders hoped to here from Minister Mukonoweshuro soon.
"It was emphasized to him (Mukonoweshuro) that this issue is a state of emergency," added Ndlovu.
Mukonoweshuro confirmed meeting civil servants representatives at his offices late on Wednesday but denied that an ultimatum had been issued.
"The 14-days is to for consultations over their grievances. I don't see it as an ultimatum. The window period allows for consultations and further negotiations," the Minister told VOP Radio.
Previously, ZIMTA, PSA and PUTZ have separately tackled the government over poor salaries, moves which rendered the actions ineffective due to disharmony.
It is understood the Ministry of Public Services has been in constant consultation with Finance Minister Tendai Biti over the threat by civil servants to go on strike if their demands are not meet.
Biti has publicly stated the coalition government is technically broke due to revenue constraints and appeals to the international community have drawn a blank as they insist on the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement signed by the three principals.
A full perusal of the government offer shows that the effected salary increases range between US$7 and US$21.
The highest paid civil servant, a permanent secretary in grade E5, has seen his or her monthly salary increased from US$185 to US$236 against a Poverty Dictum Line estimated about US$500.
In their demands to government the civil servants have stated that they want the least paid civil servant to earn US$630, comprising of a basic entry salary of US$460, a housing allowance of US$120 and a transport allowance of US$50.
They also want a the reintroduction of a rural allowance to be pegged at 20 percent of one's monthly salary, arguing that awarding the civil servants these demands would ensure equitable remuneration and guarantee competitiveness. The Poverty Dictum Line is estimated at about US$500.
At its inception in February 2009, the government paid all civil servants an allowance of US$100 a month.
The allowances were later changed to a monthly salary, which averages about US$155.