Government snubbed civil servants’ unions who requested a meeting a fortnight ago pressing for a minimum wage of $500 for the lowest paid worker.
Apex Council president Tendai Chikowore wrote to government seeking a meeting to kick-start salary negotiations but said their employer was dragging feet over the meeting.
Civil servants earn between US$150 and US$250 per month.
The Apex Council comprises the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Public Service Association (Psa), Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Tuz) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Ptuz).
“I was talking to the government team leader (Prince Mupazviriho) and he says he has not received a mandate from Treasury and the Ministry of Public Service to start negotiations. We are still waiting,” she said.
Mupazviriho however said he had not yet received the mandate to enter into new negotiations and had not yet received the civil servants’ request as he had been away from work.
However, he admitted he had been discussing the issue of salaries with civil servants’ union leaders.
Although she refused to discuss their exact demands, Chikowore last week said the Apex council wanted the lowest paid civil servant to earn a salary above the poverty datum line. The poverty datum line is estimated at around $500.
She also said civil servants had not moved from last year’s salary demands when they failed to hold meaningful negotiations with government.
Civil servants went on strike at the beginning of last year, demanding a minimum salary of $502.
The strike was eventually called off after the government convinced its workers that it was cash-strapped.
“I have not been mandated by the various unions to divulge our demands, but naturally we would want the lowest paid civil servant to earn a salary above the poverty datum line,” she said.
“We also had a position last year, where we were looking at a minimum wage of $502. We did not get our demands, so, there is no reason for us to come up with new demands when previous demands have not been met. We will go for negotiations with the same demands.”
The proposal for negotiations by the civil servants is a direct result of the decision by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to certify Zimbabwe’s diamonds, resulting in the country being allowed to sell its gems.
The diamond sale was greeted with excitement by civil servants who for years had been assured by the government that their plight would be eased as soon as the country started to sell its diamonds.
Chikowore said civil servants wanted the government to honour its word.
“Last year we were told that the government could not increase salaries because of low revenue inflows. The government said its major handicap was that it was not allowed to sell its diamonds, so we expect action now that the diamonds are being sold,” she said.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Education, Sport, Art and Culture Minister David Coltart and Public Service Minister Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro are on record saying the government did not have money to pay civil servants competitive salaries.
The ministers have however said the salaries would be reviewed as cashflow improves.