Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Zimbabwe civil servants resume strike

HARARE — A public servants’ strike in Zimbabwe jerkily resumed Thursday after failed talks on doubling basic wages, as some teachers held classes while others left students on their own. The strike, which has hit public schools the hardest, resumed after unions Wednesday rejected a $240-million (185-million-euro) blanket offer from government.

Zimbabwean civil servants demonstrate in Harare during a strike in 2009 (AFP, Desmond Kwande)
Zimbabwean civil servants demonstrate in Harare during a strike in 2009 (AFP, Desmond Kwande)

If spread evenly among government’s 230,000 employees, they would each receive an $87 a month increase, far less than their demand for basic wages to rise from $200 to $538 a month. Government workers began the five-day strike on Monday to press for a doubling of their salaries, medical insurance and an allowance for workers based in rural areas.

Unions suspended the strike on Wednesday to allow the talks to proceed, but said their action would continue for the rest of the week after negotiations failed to reach a settlement. Government departments have continued to work as usual, with unions accusing bosses of intimidating their employees to keep them from the joining the strike.

Raymond Majongwe, leader of the Progressive Teachers’ Union, said workers who ignored the strike were supplementing their pay with corrupt activities. “Those who are not on strike are vehicles of corruption,” Majongwe told AFP.

“They are there to make an extra dollar by stealing from people who are made to pay extra for services.”

Zimbabwe’s books are plagued with irregularities. Finance Minister Tendai Biti estimates that one-third of the people on the government’s payroll do not actually exist, meaning corrupt workers are siphoning off extra salaries. Civil servants, particularly teachers, nurses and doctors, have been striking on and off for better pay since 2007.

The crisis peaked in 2008, when staff shortages forced state hospitals to close some units and teacher strikes left only 50 days of classes in the whole year. Zimbabwe’s economy has begun recovering after a decade-long downturn, following a power-sharing agreement by long-time rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the wake of failed 2008 polls. AFP