Public sector workers on strike

HARARE Public sector workers in Zimbabwe begin an open-ended strike on Monday after wage talks collapsed, with Finance minister Tendai Biti insisting there is no cash to meet the workers demands.

Unions affiliated with the Apex Council, the main public sector union, have been holding out for a 150 percent rise, more than the latest government offer of 24 percent. The Apex Council, pools the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Teachers Association, and College LecturersAssociation of Zimbabwe and the Public Service Association, an umbrella body for all civil servants.

Many schools, hospitals and public offices have already been affected. The three major unions representing government workers, who now earn an average of $241 a month from US$180, met Biti and Public Service and Social Welfare Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro last week but workers insisted they will only return back to work if their demands for a minimum wage of $502 has been met.

Biti told a news conference at Harvest House HQ on Saturday that workers needed to be patient. He said government can barely afford the 24 percent offer he has put on the table. Biti told the news conference: “As a party we are very sympathetic to the cause of a decent wage to every worker but there are certain structural issues that need to be resolved. One, is the accountability

of resources. Is the State receiving sufficent resources that we are able to pay to our people? Its not. There are issues around Chiadzwa.

“In the month of January we only collected the sum of US$64 million against a wage obligation of US$110 million and remember this is cash budgeting. The government doesn’t have a reserve anywhere so we have to wait for taxpayers to pay money then we pay. We are back to the nightmare that I lived through in 2009 where we had a salary obligation of US$30 million against collections of US$4 million. “Last year we were averaging collections of US$140 million I have always argued that for this economy to actually adequately pay for fees, pay for teachers, pay for hospitals, we need to be collecting at least US$400 million a month, and we are colecting, in the case of January, less than US$100 million dollars. So there is a structural crisis. The people need to look at the structural crisis and what caused that structural crisis but we remain sympathetic to the cause of the worker, the genuine worker that is.”

The government needs to find US$10billion to resuscitate an economy vandalised through a decade of extraordinarily insane economic policies. If government yields to the workers, who have demanded an audience with the President saying the Prime Minister had failed them, it will have to re-prioritise its plans for the year to fund their offer. Manuel Nyawo, president of the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said after the meeting: We are in agreement as Apex Council that as long as government does not accede to our demands, there is no reason for our members to continue going to work.”

The government has been urging children to come to school, but many pupils have been told not to turn up by their teachers.

Minimal health and government services are expected to keep running, with employees deemed to be essential forbidden from taking part in strikes. Zimbabwe has seen a wave of strikes since the GNU came to office two years ago, though unions have warned that the latest one could be the largest for several years because it is indefinite.

Analysts say Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who owes his political support to Zimbabwe’s powerful trade unions, is under pressure to appease them while also addressing the country’s budget deficit.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *