Civil servants have suspended their five-day strike from today to pave way for negotiations with the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC).
The strike entered its second day yesterday with the education sector still paralysed as teachers stayed away to pressure government to the negotiating table.
Apex Council chairperson Tendai Chikowore said the suspension was meant to pave way for the negotiations with the NJNC, after which they would consider whether to continue with the strike or call it off altogether depending on the outcome of todays meeting.
This follows government disclosure that it would unveil a new pay deal at the NJNC meeting today meant to cushion the restive workers who have been pushing for a salary review since last year. The strike, which started on Monday, resulted in paralysis of the countrys education system with most teachers downing tools.
Chikowore said: To this observation, the council has resolved to suspend the industrial action on Wednesday 25 January, 2012 to pave way for good faith in the meeting.
However, our decision to suspend the strike should not be misconstrued as weakness. She said the council had advised government to come with an acceptable offer to the meeting.
But, Public Service minister Lucia Matibenga yesterday said: 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.
I am hopeful that the negotiations will proceed, and that an amicable solution will be found to alleviate the plight of the civil servants.
She also said it was the height of dishonesty to portray her as the face of the problem when the real key issues about civil servants salaries included the opaque nature of diamond revenue and the implementation of the public service audit which found, among other irregularities, 75 000 ghost workers.
The civil servants, some of whom are earning around $250 per month, are demanding at least $538 in tandem with the poverty datum line.
The strike will be called off only if government offers substantive awards tomorrow, thus we advise government to come to the table with a meaningful offer, Chikowore said.
Chikowore, who is also Zimbabwe Teachers Association president, said during their picketing yesterday they convinced some of those who were at work to join the strike while others only sympathised with them.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: It was encouraging the schools were deserted. Its quite exciting that most teachers took heed of the call.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said: We were able to visit the Registrar-Generals office where we also realised that the Central Registry provides essential services so could not go on strike, but other departments at Makombe Building sympathised and some left after we engaged them.
Apex also dismissed allegations that they were being used by political parties.
Apex Council would like to discount and unequivocally reject the assertions that its call for a strike has been at the instigation of any political party in Zimbabwe or elsewhere.
Such claims are mischievous and are calculated to discomfit the Apex leadership and make them lose focus, said Chikowore. A survey by NewsDay showed some government departments at Mukwati and Kaguvi buildings were manned by skeletal staff.
At most schools in both high and low-density areas, lessons did not take place as teachers adhered to the call for strike action. Meanwhile, PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou yesterday described civil servants who snubbed the call as a big let-down.
While teachers have downed tools, with many heeding the strike call, other unions from the Public Service Association have surprisingly let us down. This is sabotage, yet we are fighting for every civil servants cause.