Angry civil servants threaten fresh strike

HARARE - Fed up civil servants who staged a crippling three-day nationwide strike earlier this week over the government’s continued failure to pay them their salaries on time have warned of a fresh industrial action after the State launched a witch-hunt to flush out those who were not reporting for work.

This comes after Zimbabwe was paralysed by a massive general strike on Wednesday which was called to protest the worsening economic situation in the country, with millions of people heeding the stay-away call.

The civil servants’ representative body, the Apex Council, warned yesterday of “stern action” against “elements” whom it accused of victimising its members — who did not report to work, either because they had no money for transport, or in most cases had no transport on Wednesday when the nation heeded the “Shutdown” call.

The council singled out civil service inspectors, accusing them of harassing and intimidating government workers.

“The Apex Council and Health Apex Council take exception to reports of harassment and intimidation of members by so-called Civil Service Inspectors, with some among our leadership having reported of being followed by suspicious elements.

“The Apex Council will not hesitate to act against whoever harasses or intimidates the generality of its membership and leadership for exercising their constitutional right to disagree,” the Apex Council and Health Apex Council said in a joint statement

Rattled by the industrial action by teachers, nurses and medical doctors, and later the shutdown, the government was eventually forced to bring forward pay dates for the striking workforce.

The president of the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Takavafira Zhou, also raised concern over the intimidation of teachers, describing the alleged harassment as an attempt by the government to criminalise the profession.

“Any witch-hunting or attempt to penalise any members who were on industrial action must be met with group solidarity and further action. An injury to any worker in Zimbabwe is a threat to all workers in Zimbabwe.

“Government should also be reminded that while we are interested in logical disputation and engagement, we would appreciate time framed negotiations rather than begging and negotiation in infinity,” he said.

But the Civil Service Commission (CSC) defended the witch-hunts, saying it had the right to monitor employees.

“Please be advised that Public Service Commission is the employer of civil servants and it has a constitutional right to monitor the efficient delivery of service.

“The functions of the commission as stated in Section 203 of the Constitution include appointments of qualified and competent persons to hold posts in the civil service, fix and regulate conditions of service, exercise disciplinary powers, investigate and remedy grievances of members of the civil service.

“The commission is also mandated to implement measures to ensure effective and efficient performance within, and the general well-being of the civil service as well as ensure that members of the civil service carry out duties efficiently and impartially.

“The entire civil service keeps clock-in clock-out registers for all its members. From time to time the employer examines these registers as a way of ensuring that members of the civil service carry out their duties efficiently,” it said in a statement.

But Zhou said in light of the intimidation, they would continue to engage the government to come up with common ground over labour rights, even though they were not optimistic about coming out with a favourable result.

“Comrades, let’s remain ready to sharpen our instruments of combat, wear our industrial gear and choose the battleground. We should remain ready to fight another battle as a united front should the government fail to pay July salaries in July,” he said.

The government is said to be spending up to 90 percent of its revenues on civil service salaries.

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