Apex council & government to meet Wednesday over pay dispute

Government and civil servants have agreed to talks aimed at resolving the pay dispute that forced the public sector workers to embark on a nationwide strike.

Leaders from the Apex Council, the government workers union and officials at the National Joint Negotiating Council, representing the state, will meet Wednesday for the first time since the start of the week-long industrial action on Monday.

The talks had been scheduled to take place before the strike happened and officials are playing down the likelihood of an early deal being struck.

But Public Service minister Lucia Matibenga said she was hopeful an amicable solution will be found during negotiations to alleviate the plight of the civil servant.

In a statement, the veteran trade unionist stressed that during an inter-ministerial advisory committee on 17th January, the discussion centred around expanding the fiscal space by finding alternative sources of revenue as well as ensuring that revenue from diamonds is accounted for.

“It is pertinent to note that the issue of civil servants’ salaries is inextricably linked to transparency in revenue from diamonds as well as the ghost workers that were unearthed by auditors,”

“Finance Minister (Tendai) Biti and myself went to brief the Acting President, John Nkomo on the status of negotiations and the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee,” Matibenga said.

Tendai Chikowore, chairperson of Apex Council told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that they ‘expect’ government to agree to their demands if they want sanity to prevail in the civil service.

“We are expecting government to table a salary review for the civil servants for January 2012. We have tabled our figures and our position is known. The way forward is going to be determined by the outcome of the meeting,” Chikowore said.

She added: “If the result is negative, we will continue with the strike…if it is fine with us, then we will call off the strike.”

The civil servants are demanding a minimum monthly salary of US$538, up from the current US$250.

Chikowore insisted that as a result of the strike, the country was experiencing some disruption to services as thousands of public sector workers have gone on strike, closing schools and in some instances bringing state business to a virtual standstill.

“As far as we are concerned, the strike has been very successful, people have heeded overwhelmingly in the education sector, so we believe the message has been sent out to government that we are not backing down,” she said.

Asked about reports some government offices have remained open, Chikowore, a teacher by profession admitted they had encountered pockets of resistance in the first two days of the protests.

“We are going around as leadership of council picketing some of the areas and managed to convince quiet a good number of them to go back home and join the strike for a good cause,” she added.

On Monday, SW Radio Africa’s correspondents said that government offices in the country’s two main cities were operating as normal, on the first day of the week long strike. – SW Radio Africa News

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