Public workers went on an indefinite strike more than a week ago to press the unity government of President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara to hike salaries to US$630 a month for the lowest paid worker from the current $120 money the administration does not have. Tendai Chikowore, chairwoman of the Apex council representing all government employees, last Friday told civil servants to continue with the job action until the government agrees to increase salaries.
Chikowore, who is also president of the Zimbabwe Teacher Association (ZIMTA), said: We are up in arms against this government which has been neglecting us for years. We will also not find an opportune time to be together as civil servants fighting for a common course than now. It has not happened before but now we have been brought together by poverty.
The Apex council brings together various government worker representative bodies such as the ZIMTA, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ), College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe (COLAZ), and the Public Service Association.
Chikowore also took the opportunity to deny charges that her organisation was being manipulated by some parties in the unity government to strike. She said: Civil servants are not being used by political parties. We are not talking politics. If asking for a living wage is political, then I am at a loss. The APEX boss said the government had proposed a salary of $135 for the least paid government worker which union leaders turned down. The government had also proposed pay housing and transport allowances ranging between $13 and $18 per month, a far cry from the $40 and $124 demanded by workers for transport and housing allowance respectively.
The strike by civil servants that has disrupted services in many centres across the country has raised fears Zimbabwe could slide back to the same situation in 2008 before formation of the unity government when most state departments were barley functional with workers either on strike or simply staying at home because they did not have money for bus fare. The unity government formed a year ago to end a protracted political crisis says it needs at least $10 billion to reverse a decade of economic decline, but is struggling to attract external cash. At its inception in February 2009, the coalition government quickly moved to pay all civil servants an allowance of US$100 a month across the board to try to woo them back to work as part of a drive to get Zimbabwe functioning again and on the road to recovery.
However analysts say the administrations ability to get Zimbabwe functioning again hinges on its ability to raise financial support from rich Western countries that have however said they will not immediately help until they are convinced Mugabe is committed to genuinely share power with his former opposition foes.Post published in: Opinions