By Mugove Tafirenyika
Cash bonuses for civil servants will no longer be paid this year because government has no money, with restive unions threatening industrial action.
This emerged at a meeting between government and civil servants’ representatives on Wednesday to discuss their welfare.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya and Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira (pictured) told civil servants that government could only afford to pay them using residential stands and other non-monetary benefits, an offer rejected by government workers.
“We presented civil servants with three options in the fruitful meeting we had, so they will go and consult with their stakeholders while we also consult further,” Mupfumira told journalists after the meeting.
She added that the two parties will meet again towards the end of February.
Although Mupfumira described the meeting as “fruitful”, civil servants came out of the indaba seething with anger, accusing government of insincerity and threatening industrial action.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), whose membership has been on a go-slow since the beginning of the term in protest over the delay in bonus payments, described the meeting as a damp squib.
Artuz secretary-general Robson Chere described Chinamasa’s offer as “vague and dubious”. He said teachers were already negotiating, on their own, with various local authorities for residential stands.
“Artuz will urgently serve the Public Service Commission with notification to go on strike within 14 days if government does not release dates for bonus payments,” Chere said.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Raymond Majongwe said: “…civil servants have suffered enough and we cannot accept being told that we have to wait when we are witnessing the levels of opulence being exhibited in government.
“We are not going to accept a situation where we are asked to forego tradition.
“We are going to further consult but our position is not going to change and we are united in our demands but we know there are a few of us who would want to side with government.
“They risk being rejected by their membership because all of us as civil servants are all agreed on our position.”
Speaking to the Daily News on the sidelines of Mupfumira’s press briefing, Zimbabwe Rural Teachers’ Union (ZRTU) said while it appreciates the efforts by their employers, the proposals government was tabling were “unpalatable.”
“We are going to consult our membership but obviously we will be digging our own graves to ask our bitter members to accept any offer that does make them smile all the way to the bank,” ZRTU deputy president Gibson Mushangu said, adding that teachers wanted government to pronounce payment dates “and nothing else.”
In a leaked document showing 2017 National Budget pressure points that Chinamasa circulated to all stakeholders attending the meeting, the Treasury chief said government’s total expenditure demands stand at $942,5 million.
In respect of employment cost arrears, government owes $352,1 million, $69,9 million arrears for December 2016 wage bill.
Chinamasa also revealed that government owed service providers such as Premier Service Medical Aid Society ($8,9 million) National Social Security Authority (Nssa $173,1m) dating back to September 2013, while another $180 million is owed in respect of last year’s bonuses among a series of other arrears.
The public sector wage bill currently accounts for over 80 percent of government expenditure.
To manage the fiscal pressures, government has resolved to pay civil servants almost every week and in order of priority since the beginning of last year. Daily News