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Govt divides workers’ unions… pays medical aid for some

Civil servants unions have ganged up against their employer, threatening a full-blown strike this week unless their salaries and conditions of service are improved.

BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO/ SHARON BUWERIMWE GOVERNMENT has been accused of selectively paying medical aid allowances to some civil servants in what has been seen as a deliberate divide and rule ploy to defuse a looming full-blown strike.

Civil servants unions have ganged up against their employer, threatening a full-blown strike this week unless their salaries and conditions of service are improved.

Information at hand suggests that government is paying medical allowances to

Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) members only, a move which has left civil servants who are members of other medical aid societies in the cold.

Among the civil servants’ demands is at least a US$540 salary per month.

This comes as annual inflation skyrocketed to 191% in June due to a weakening local currency that is being rejected by basic goods manufacturers, forcing retailers to sell some locally-produced products exclusively in US dollars.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said government was deliberately dividing them.

“Government is deliberately dividing us, micro-managing our decision-making. As far as we are concerned, all unions are speaking with one voice. We are not going to allow anybody to divide us.

“In the past, we would start fighting and bickering among ourselves. We are saying let’s bury the hatchet. We can’t be divided over allowances, or piecemeal RTGS that translate to nothing on the parallel market,” Majongwe said, adding that all blocked teachers’ salaries should be reinstated.

Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU) organising secretary Charles Chinosengwa echoed similar sentiments.

“It seems as if the government is taking for granted the issue of PSMAS. It must give us healthcare allowances so that we choose where to go. If I choose to go to a sekuru (prophet or ritualist), that will be my own decision,” Chinosengwa said.

“The other issue is of teachers’ salaries being held on allegations of not reporting for duty. The other issue is of US dollars, it seems the government is not serious. It comes to the negotiating table without any offer of US dollars. Most commodities are now pegged in US dollars.

“Government is negotiating with us in bad faith. It gives some workers money. Last time, it gave soldiers 37% and didn’t give others. We are saying anything should be shared equally among the workers. Regardless of the divide and rule tactic, we are saying all government departments are closing.”

ZCPSTU president David Dzatsunga said government was only giving 80% medical allowance to PSMAS members.

“All civil servants must access that 80% allowance irrespective of their medical aid schemes. But the government has been giving that allowance to PSMAS members only,” Dzatsunga said.

Public Service Commission secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe said it was premature for civil servants to go on strike since there was no “deadlock”.

“A civil servant who elects not to serve the public on a workday cannot expect to be treated the same way a civil servant who reports for work and serves the public on that same day is treated on payday. That would be unjust,” he said.

“The National Joint Negotiating Committee procedure requires that a deadlock first be declared, after which the matter in contention goes to arbitration. Only in circumstances where arbitration fails can the extreme resort to striking be legal.”

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