BY Everson Mushava
SHARP divisions have emerged within the civil service following the decision by the Apex Council to accept a paltry 76% pay hike from their employer at a time the workers wanted an over 400% pay hike.
While the civil service’s umbrella labour body, the Apex Council, has defended its decision to accept government’s 76% pay rise offer, teacher unions have breathed fire, accusing their representatives of treachery.
The Apex Council says the decision to accept the 76% was a stop-gap measure to alleviate the suffering of impoverished government workers, while negotiations for a further salary hike continue, but teacher unions have accused them of conniving with government to rob workers of their integrity.
The Apex Council on Tuesday signed an agreement with government, provisionally settling for the 76% offer tabled by their employer, hardly a week after they
scoffed at the offer, describing it as falling far too short of their expectations.
The salary adjustment came as teachers have threatened a crippling industrial action when schools open for the third term in two weeks’ time, while other civil
servants — among them doctors and college lecturers — are also claiming that they were now financially incapacitated to continue reporting for duty.
The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) immediately described the Apex Council’s decision as treacherous and the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association
(Zimta), castigated government for using coercive tactics.
Apex Council spokesperson David Dzatsunga yesterday, however, described Zimta as dishonest, claiming it was part of the agreement made in a meeting in the
morning before the National Joint Consultative Council.
He claimed that in that meeting, the Apex Council was given the power to sign to mitigate the suffering of workers if government failed to budge to workers’
“There is no iota of truth in that. The truth is that unions, including this union (Zimta) met for pre-negotiations this morning and agreed that in the event
government failed to move, we should sign as a stop-gap measure as civil servants are suffocating,” Dzatsunga said.
In its statement released soon after the Apex Council signed for the 76% government pay offer, Zimta claimed government threatened to withhold salaries to
force its workers into accepting its offer, despite their demand for $4 750 for the least paid worker.
“Zimta condemns this bad faith tactic that has traits of coercion. We are disappointed by our frontline negotiators who failed to hold fort,” Zimta said.
Zimta secretary-general Sifiso Ndlovu yesterday stuck to his guns, claiming government used coercive tactics and blamed the Apex Council for signing before
communicating the position to unions.
“Our direction was that they should not sign. They should have come back to us and get a new mandate. For them to sign, because government had threatened not to pay salaries, was an act of treachery,” Ndlovu said.
“That was treachery on their part. They held the workers to ransom. They should have come back to tell us of the government’s decision and we consult our membership.”
Added Ndlovu: “As Zimta, we had met the national executive from provinces and directed our negotiators not to sign. We anticipated that the approach that we won’t pay would be used by government to arm-twisting workers. Zimta was disappointed that negotiators did not come to report back and seek our input on the way forward.
“Those who negotiated might know something that we don’t know. They did not report back to us yet we had directed the negotiators not to sign anything before bringing it back to consult members.”
Zimta president Richard Gundani, who is also in the Apex Council, refused to comment on the issue.
PTUZ, which has since pulled out of the Apex Council, described the decision by the umbrella body as a blow to the workers.
“This type of leadership is surely worthless. They (Apex Council) are prolonging the suffering of workers rather than ameliorating it. You can see why PTUZ is not part of this circus of leadership that does not take any mandate from the people they purport to be representing,” PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said.