Govt must walk the talk on civil servants’ salaries

In an environment in which the local currency is being elbowed out of transactions, a static Zimdollar component paid to civil servants becomes meaningless.

A SHOWDOWN is brewing between the government and its employees over a salary review amid worsening economic outlook.

The workers have flagged government's half-hearted approach and its unwillingness to call a roundtable on the working conditions of its workers.

 Their apprehension comes as the economy is taking a tailspin despite authorities painting a rosy picture saying they have ticked all the boxes that support a stable economy.

 The Zimdollar, which authorities say is here to stay, is taking a beating against major currencies, especially the US dollar, trading at over ZWL$20 000 per dollar on the parallel market against ZWL$17 508 on the interbank market.

 Prices have gone haywire, wiping the disposable income. The economy is redollarising at a fast pace with products in local currency priced beyond the reach of many.

 “Our lives and welfare have become a nightmare and the delay in holding an [National Joint Negotiating Council] three month into the first quarter clearly shows the employer's lack of concern towards our plight much against the standard practice of quarterly negotiations,” an umbrella union of government employees said this week.

It wants the employer to improve their US$ salaries as the currency has been the preferred medium of exchange. 

Civil servants get a minimum of US$350 per month plus a local currency allowance. Previously, the US$ component was not taxed. 

 Now it is taxable since January. Adding to that, a new round of taxes began in January meaning that the cake is getting smaller by the day.

 It is a genuine cry by government workers considering that the executive, legislature and Judiciary have been pampered.

 Last year, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was forced to increase the budget allocation to Parliament to accommodate the new demands by lawmakers that included top-of-the-range Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles, hotel stay for their spouses, huge perks, additional benefits as well as payment of salaries for their workers.

Judges were also pampered. The executive is well catered for.

It is not that resources are not there. It is about the allocation of the available resources which has riled civil servants. 

In an environment in which the local currency is being elbowed out of transactions, a static Zimdollar component paid to civil servants becomes meaningless.

Government employees want the local currency component to track the real exchange rate and not the “delusionary RBZ rate, which we cannot access”.

 Like all citizens, they are also feeling the pinch of the new taxes introduced by the Treasury Chief to boost government’s coffers.

 We urge the employer, represented by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, to get off its high horse and engage the unions.

 The economy is in such a precarious position that it cannot afford an industrial action by any dissatisfied constituency.

 The impact of the El-Nino-induced drought will be felt in the coming months in the form of an increase in the price of maize meal, necessitating an increase in salaries.

Government’s sincerity will be evident if it engages the civil servants under the NJNC. In the absence of that, the government’s pledge to improve the welfare of its workers will be cheap politicking.

 The private sector should take heed.


Related Topics