Civil servants strike today

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The civil servants’ umbrella representative body, Apex Council, has urged its members to down tools today after salary negotiations with the Public Service Commission collapsed on Tuesday.

Apex Council chairperson Tendai Chikowore confirmed the development yesterday, adding the strike action had been prompted by Public Service minister Lucia Matibenga’s failure to address their grievances as agreed at their meeting last week.

“We felt that she (Matibenga) had flushed us out by not appearing at the meeting on Tuesday,” Chikowore said.

“We were told that Matibenga was attending a ministerial advisory committee meeting at the time we had agreed to meet her. We waited for her, but she did not appear even after her meeting had ended. We are continuing with the one-day strike (action) and we call for all civil servants from around Zimbabwe to join in. On Thursday (today) everyone of them should strike.”

Representatives of different unions spoke with one voice, saying the strike would go ahead as planned today. Public Service Association president Cecilia Alexander said:

“There is no turning back now. The strike is still on tomorrow (today). We are busy distributing flyers to all our members on the one-day strike.”

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou added: “We are ready for the industrial action tomorrow (today). We have already sent information to all our members that there shall be a major strike tomorrow and we expect everyone to cooperate so as to get results.”

Zimbabwe’s estimated 235 000 public servants have been clamouring for a salary increase since the formation of the wobbly inclusive government.

The lowest paid civil servant currently earns $235 monthly. They are demanding at least $538 per month in line with the poverty datum line.

Yesterday Matibenga declined to comment on the issue, saying: “You should ask me other issues, we will talk about that tomorrow.”

Matibenga had last week told the various civil servants’ bodies that she would engage with the three principals President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and give them feedback on Tuesday.

However, she failed to pitch up for the Tuesday meeting. Chikowore told NewsDay yesterday the civil servants’ unions that attended the meeting felt they were “flushed” by Matibenga and were left with no choice other than to strike.

PTUZ on Monday petitioned President Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai to intervene.

PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the salary dispute was taken to the principals in government because it was “bigger than Matibenga”.