The cash-strapped Zanu PF government has brought forward January pay dates for civil servants in a desperate attempt to appease restless public sector workers who will join a growing strike if the government does not agree to pay them in U.S. dollars.
The Government today meets civil servants’ representatives where the employer is expected to table a cost of living adjustment and other non-monetary incentives for its workers.
Civil Service Commission chairman Dr Vincent Hungwe yesterday said members of the Zimbabwe National Army, Air Force of Zimbabwe, Prisons and Correctional Service, Zimbabwe Republic Police would get their salaries on Monday next week.
Those in the education and health sectors will also be paid on Monday.
The rest of the civil service and pensioners will be paid on Wednesday.
“Following the commitments that emerged from the consultative meeting held by Government, the Apex Council and representatives of the other public service staff associations on the 7th of January 2019 in Harare, Government wishes to confirm that the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting will take place at 1200 hrs on Thursday, 10 January 2019 in Harare,” Dr Hungwe said.
“The purpose of NJNC meeting is for the Government to formally present its feedback to issues raised by the Apex Council at their last meeting of 7 December 2018. Government fully expects that the partners in the NJNC will focus their undivided attention on delivering effective responses to the challenges arising out of the current distortions in the market.”
He added: “In pursuit of the urgent need to address these challenges, Government has since brought forward the January 2019 pay dates for the different workers in the public sector.”
Dr Hungwe said Government appreciated the role played by civil servants in service delivery.
“Government recognises and appreciates the readiness of the social partners to urgently discus concrete proposals to support and capacitate public sector workers to deliver services that the nation needs within mutually recognised and sustainable parameters,” he said.
A preliminary consultative meeting between Government and its workers was held on Monday and the employer acknowledged the difficulties the were facing.
Doctors and some teachers have already staged walk-outs, saying they need the hard cash payments to protect them against inflation and a currency crunch – piling pressure on Emmerson Mnangagwa less than five months into his contested presidency.
The Apex Council, which represents 16 public sector unions, said it gave the government the required two-week notice of industrial action on Tuesday.
“If they do not pay us in U.S. dollars or an equivalent, we are going on a fully fledged strike,” Apex deputy chairman Thomas Muzondo said.
Cash shortages have plunged Zimbabwe’s financial system into disarray, threatening social unrest and undermining Mnangagwa’s efforts to win back foreign investors sidelined under his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
With not enough hard currency to back up funds showing in bank accounts, the value of electronic money has plummeted, prompting businesses and civil servants to demand payment in U.S. dollars they can withdraw.
Any move to compensate workers by increasing wages would scupper government plans to cut the fiscal deficit by more than half to 5 percent of GDP this year and bring down the wage bill to 70 percent of the budget from more than 90 percent previously.
Reducing that wage bill is one of the main demands of the International Monetary Fund, which has urged the government to channel more money to infrastructure development and health.
The government employs more than 300,000 workers and spends $300 million on salaries every month.
Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017 after Mugabe was forced to resign following an army coup. He was declared president in August 2018 after a presidential vote that his main opponent says he won fraudulently. Reuters/The Herald