BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA GOVERNMENT yesterday snubbed the much-awaited salary talks with its restive workers under the auspices of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC), a development likely to fuel mistrust and escalate tension in the public service.
The last NJNC meeting between government and the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Unions (ZCPSTU), formerly Apex Council, ended in a deadlock last Friday after the workers rejected a 100% salary increase, insisting on United States dollar-indexed earnings.
Both parties had agreed to meet again this week for further negotiations, but ZCPSTU said government was in no show.
“We were supposed to have the NJNC meeting this week, most probably today (yesterday) but government did not come through,” ZCPSTU secretary-general David Dzatsunga told NewsDay Weekender.
Dzatsunga said government’s failure to attend the bipartite negotiating meeting proved that it was not sincere.
“We are disturbed by the lack of urgency on the part of government given the situation on the ground, so that is as it stands and we are in the process of engaging our members to say, ‘where do we go from here because the employer has demonstrated a certain level of rather an apathy towards our situation?’
“It is now clear that the employer is not in a hurry to address our issues, but we are hungry, we are impatient and we are restless,” he said.
Public Service Commission secretary Jonathan Wutaunashe and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima were not picking calls on their mobile phones.
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When asked if there has been any latest salary offer to health workers, Health Service Board executive director Angelbert Mbengwa said “nothing has changed”.
Yesterday marked day five since health workers and teachers embarked on strike demanding United States dollar salaries and improved working conditions.
Government has issued mixed signals on the US dollar salary demands.
Patients were being turned away from public hospitals amid reports that a full-blown civil service strike bringing in other sectors will kick in next week.
Health and Child Care minister, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga has remained mum on the health sector strike.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the face-off between government and the ZCPTU was necessary to escalate the fight for better salaries in the face of the high cost of living.
“Now that government has shown them the middle finger, they must then come and tell us who exactly they represent,” Majongwe said.
“I think the civil servants are going to increase the pressure on the government because we don’t have any other option. The time for everyone to act is now.”
Zimbabwe National Teachers Union chief executive Manuel Nyawo said there was need for civil servants to speak with one voice to force government to act.
“Our continued suffering must jolt us into action and action is the only panacea to what we are going through,” Nyawo said.
“If we choose not to act, we are stupidly betraying ourselves, our children, our parents, our careers and our collective future. We cannot work in vain for all these years.
“The police that are being used against us are worse off and we shudder to think that they have the temerity to beat up protesting nurses who are fighting for their own cause as well. Are the police not civil servants, are they not struggling like we are doing? Why would they beat up their own?”
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