BY MOSES MATENGA
WORKERS under the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) banner have declared that a crippling general strike was the only way out of the current salary crisis as government was not keen on addressing their plight.
ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said a crucial meeting involving doctors, teachers, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions and other stakeholders was held recently to find a lasting solution to the disputes.
He said the general feeling was that a general strike that stops all workers from going to work was the only way out.
Mutasa said workers should unite to force the private and public sector employers into action, adding that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration did not have any appetite to resolve workers’ problems.
“We know that we will not get anything if we do not unite and fight back together,” Mutasa said.
“The only way is a national strike that makes sure the whole country’s workforce stops working. That is the only way in the public and private sectors and if we don’t do that, the employer will always find ways of victimising workers at the workstation and we need a general strike and we need all workers to unite.”
Mutasa added: “Recently, we had the salaries and wages summit that was convened by the ZCTU and attended by the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, other teachers unions, and the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association.
“We are continuing to urge all workers to unite and to fight back. For as long as we are united, we are very optimistic that we will get what we are demanding.”
Civil servants have been engaged in talks with the government but the dialogue is on the verge of collapse after the parties failed to agree on two occasions.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou also confirmed that union leaders were consulting their members on the issue of a general strike. He said indications were that people were speaking with one voice.
Zhou said teachers were already implementing their two-day working week programme, adding that threats by the government would not stop them.
“It is a minimum of one day and a maximum of two days. We have received threats from some government officials who said teachers are sabotaging the government and must resign. They are the ones to resign because they are not paying their workers,” he said.
“We were trying to find common ground to say the government must not deal with us in private pockets and as workers we must lobby employers to pay us well and that consultation is going on and we are moving towards consolidation of worker positions for a national lobby by workers and there was general consensus on that.”
Labour minister Paul Mavima said there was one more meeting to go before a deadlock could be declared, but threatened a “no work, no salary principle” to stop workers from engaging in job action.
Civil servants have declared incapacitation and are demanding the pre-October 2018 salaries of between US$520 and US$550 a month.
Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa waded into the salary war, saying: “No to slave wages. When the economy has dollarised with fuel, tollgates, passports being charged in US dollars, it is not only illogical, but outrightly cruel to pay civil service salaries in worthless RTGS. Pay decent wages. Maintain people’s right to dignity.
“You can’t leave in a distorted market, a distorted stock market, a distorted foreign currency market and a distorted commodity market. It is so because of a distorted (2018) election.
“You cannot have the most expensive fuel in the region with salaries not meeting the high cost of living. That is fiction and why do we believe in fiction like that? No country develops on the basis of fiction. People cannot plan their lives properly because of this kind of economy.”
He said the way out was to address the “distorted” politics of the day that has led to the crisis.
“Zimbabweans have not known normal lives for long. They cannot breathe, doctors cannot breathe, nurses cannot breathe, teachers cannot breathe, and civil servants cannot breathe,” Chamisa said. “The solution is to address the distorted politics first and the economy will fall into place.”