HomeEditorialsCivil servants’ unions must speak with one voice

Civil servants’ unions must speak with one voice

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At long last, the warring civil servants’ unions have realised that it does not pay to fight over positions while thousands of their members continue to wallow in poverty.

NewsDay Editorial

We are glad that they have seen the light and buried their differences by appointing people who will represent them during salary negotiations with government.

The unions have, for extended periods, been squabbling over who should represent them at the National Joint Negotiating Council. This did not bode well for the civil servants who look up to their unions to take their concerns forward.

On Monday, Public Service minister Nicholas Goche had to give the feuding unions a 48-hour ultimatum to come up with a substantive list of negotiators to represent them. We wonder why it had to get to this point. After three days of negotiations, we are glad the unions finally managed to find each other.

We welcome the development by the unions to bury their differences. The squabbling by the parties could not have been allowed to continue a day longer as the month of January is just days away when the increments are ordinarily effected.

Expenses associated with the “January Disease’’ are well-known and civil servants have for far too long struggled to cater for their families — school fees and uniforms in particular.

Their persistent calls for salaries above the poverty datum line estimated at about $540 have to be addressed by any reasonable government and for them to be scuttled by power-hungry unions’ representatives is betrayal of the highest order.

The squabbling had also given the government convenient excuses not to honour its pledge to increase salaries after the July 31 polls. In the run-up to the elections, President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party pledged to improve the lives of civil servants once re-elected.

This has, however, not yet happened partly because of the squabbles amongst the leaders of the various unions.

The coming-together of the unions now provides a litmus test to government and Mugabe in particular, to make good on their promises.

We hope that the government was not buying time through the squabbles of unions and that it is ready to negotiate in good faith.

It must be made clear that union leaders must have the interests of their members at heart and not personal interests.

We just wonder why it took the unions so long to see sense that infighting would not benefit their membership.

The fighting also raises questions of what is it that the union leaders stand to benefit by being appointed among the negotiating team. It makes us think that there are personal benefits accruing to them by being salary negotiators.

Whatever it is, we don’t know.

Whatever differences they might have in the future, the unions must speak with one voice and in whatever they do, the interests of their membership must come first.

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