By Caroline Chiimba
Talk between government and its employees produced nothing tangible yesterday, heightening tensions between the two sides.
After a marathon meeting called by government yesterday to calm restive unions arguing for better pay and improved working conditions, civil servants were left to fight another day.
Members of the Apex Council — the voice of the civil servants — remained adamant that their employer should pay their salaries in the elusive foreign currency or face a crippling industrial action.
But speaking after the indaba, acting Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister July Moyo said the meeting laid the foundation for further negotiations at the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC).
NJNC is a forum that brings to the negotiating table government and worker representatives falling under the Apex Council.
“We have heard the plight of our civil servants, especially because of prices which are going up. The governor of the Reserve Bank (John Mangudya) has been able to explain the nature of the economy; the secretary for finance (George Guvamatanga) has been able to also explain the nature of the economy and the arbitrage that has been going on. The fundamental question becomes why are prices going up in this economy in the manner they have been increasing and impacting on the public service and the civil service?” said Moyo.
“Now that we have discussed broadly, they (members of the Apex Council) should go back to the NJNC because it is the statutory body that can come up with signed agreements for us to go forward,” he added.
He said whatever would have been agreed on at the NJNC will become binding to all members in the public sector from the lowly paid civil servant right up to the President.
The acting Public Service minister said the meeting, which was also opened to unions outside the Apex Council, served as a consultative platform for those invited to attend.
Moyo said government has an offer which it will table at the NJNC.
As such, it is hoping that the parties to the negotiations will agree on issues relating to timing and other parameters associated with its offer.
He said government was also open to alternative solutions from its employees who are pushing for salaries denominated in United States dollars.
“So that is up to them to make proposals but that is (only) when the government has made its offer,” Moyo said.
Immediately after the meeting, teachers unions blasted government for wasting their time.
Progressive Teachers Union in Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said it was disappointing that teachers left the meeting empty handed.
“All we did was raising our issues — the teachers concerns and government cannot blame us for not showing up,” said the militant PTUZ boss.
“All they could tell us was that dialogue will continue but we have had dialogue for too long a time hence our most important point that we are putting across is that teachers are too incapacitated to return and turn up for duty (today).
“So as far as we are concerned, the workers will decide the way forward as the meeting was just promises, promises and the lectures that we have always had from the Reserve Bank and economic departments of the ministries and nothing concrete,” fumed Majongwe.
Zimbabwe Teachers Union secretary-general Tapson Sibanda said the meeting failed to change the reality on the ground.
“We would like the nation to understand that we have not yet resolved that matter discussed in this meeting, although some measures have been put in place.
“The truth of the matter is that teachers remain incapacitated. We cannot vouch that come Tuesday (today) the same teacher will be at work,” Sibanda said.
Yesterday’s meeting was called for by Moyo as part of government’s commitment to engage with all its employees in pursuit of developing common positions in relation to the improvement of employee salaries and generally resolve any matters that impact their conditions of service.
Invitations were extended to all members of the Apex Council and all registered public service staff associations.
Government was represented by officials from the RBZ and from line ministries namely the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Finance and Economic Development; Primary and Secondary Education; Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and the Public Service Commission. Daily News