Zimbabwe state workers to strike over pay

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State workers in Zimbabwe are getting ready to strike this week in a push for a doubling of their pay after failing to reach a wage deal with the government, state media said on Wednesday.

The state employees, who number about 230,000, are demanding a minimum monthly salary of $538 from the current $250 but the government, which is still subject to Western sanctions, has said it cannot afford the increase.

Teachers make up the majority of government employees, and Thursday’s planned strike, if it goes ahead, could force many government schools to close.

Mass industrial action could also feed into the political tensions already brewing between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC ahead of elections that may come this year.

The Apex Council, which represents state unions, said the government had failed to meet a Tuesday deadline to raise salaries, precipitating the planned strike.

“On Thursday there will be no business in all government departments,” said Apex Council chairman Tendai Chikowore, who is also president of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association.