CIVIL servants yesterday resolved to embark on a strike next Monday in protest over government’s failure to commit to paying the 2016 bonus, adding a fresh headache to authorities, as doctors are already on a job action and there seems to be no solution in sight.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
The resolution was endorsed at the Apex Council’s meeting held in Harare yesterday, although Public Service Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira said she was unaware of the planned industrial action.
Apex Council acting chairperson, Raymond Majongwe (pictured) announced the decision to down tools, after the government kept postponing meetings to finalise modalities and dates for payment of the 2016 bonuses.
“We have resolved that we must show the government, and this is going to happen on the sixth [of March],” he said.
“All 15 unions will congregate in Harare. We are saying there will be no work for all government workers on March 6 to show the government that we want our bonuses in cash. It will be a demonstration of force.
“We will notify the government of our planned action, in which workers will gather in Harare. No government worker will report for duty on the sixth. We want our money and want to be paid as is tradition.”
But, Mupfumira insisted the two parties had not yet exhausted all the channels and were still consulting on whether to pay the bonuses as cash, loans or as stands-in-lieu of bonuses.
“As far as we are concerned, discussions are ongoing. Workers’ representatives gave an undertaking to consult their membership, following the meeting at which we gave three options to pay outstanding bonuses,” she said.
“We are also consulting and were supposed to meet on February 20, but Finance minister (Patrick) Chinamasa is currently out of the country and will only come back later this week. We are now scheduled to meet next week.
“I cannot commit to anything. Treasury is key and we would need to know if government has the money to pay before committing to anything.”
Majongwe accused Mupfumira of pushing a sinister agenda to destroy civil servants’ unions by portraying union leaders as “anti-workers”.
“Secondly, we want to demand that the government must not abuse its structures to destroy unions. We do not take kindly to union bashing, as is being led by minister Mupfumira. Our resolution is that we are committed to dialogue for as long as they engage with us as equal partners,” he said.
“The government is not God and should learn to respect trade unions that they want to assassinate. We will not stand by and watch them destroy unions because it is from these unions that workers shall survive.”
But the Public Service minister denied the allegations, arguing a survey being conducted by the Civil Service Commission could help the workers’ cause.
“I am not going to pre-empt the results of the survey, but we actually believe it could help the workers,” Mupfumira insisted.
“It will give us an idea of who wants what mode of payment. Others want stands, some want cash, while another group want loans. The survey will make this clear and, in fact, the Apex Council can conduct its own survey.
“In any event, not all civil servants are members of the Apex Council and the government has a duty to fill in that gap to make sure everyone is catered for.”
In announcing the survey last week, Mupfumira claimed civil servants were being “misled” by unions, arguing the majority of government workers had bought into the stands programme.
However, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) hit back, accusing Mupfumira of disrespecting the principles of negotiating in good faith.
“For the avoidance of doubt to all concerned, Zimta, as the largest teacher trade union in Zimbabwe, wants to categorically state that it has sufficiently consulted its membership dotted in all corners of Zimbabwe and has been appropriately advised to demand for the payment of the 2016 bonus in cash,” the association said in a statement on Sunday.
“Zimta would like to warn the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare not to stretch the patience of workers, as this amounts to triggering of industrial disharmony and to introducing conflict, which is likely to disrupt the smooth delivery of government services.”
The government early this year tabled a plan to dole out residential stands to its 500 000-strong workforce in lieu of outstanding bonuses, but this was rejected outright before Mupfumira came up with her survey.
Majongwe claimed Mupfumira and Chinamasa wanted to hijack the stands project.
“We have never said we do not want stands, but we are working on modalities and a framework through which those stands will be delivered with Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere,” he explained.
“To ministers Mupfumira and Chinamasa, please hands off until we have agreed on how the matter of stands will be handled with Local Government.”