Restless unions push for pay hike

HARARE - Zimbabwe's new Cabinet will face major problems from day one — with militant unions already pushing for pay rises in the wake of the recent price hikes and the deteriorating economy, which they say have eroded workers’ earnings.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new ministers will take their oath of office today, as they embark on the arduous journey of reviving the country’s sickly economy.

Some workers union representatives told the Daily News yesterday that salaries had been “eroded” by the skyrocketing prices of goods, which economic analysts and the business community have blamed on the country’s worsening foreign currency shortages.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association secretary-general Enock Dongo said in the case of health workers, their salaries were last reviewed five years ago.

“Our salaries are not in sync with the prices of basic commodities, hence we demand government to urgently look at this.

“We are demanding more than 100 percent increments. Our salaries are far below the poverty datum line,” Dongo said.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said it was also looking forward to a meaningful engagement with the new government on salaries.

“We urge teachers to unite under the umbrella of the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators’ Unions (Fozeu) and galvanise all teachers to clamour for better salaries and conditions of service.

“We urge them to engage in meaningful dialogue and logical disputation with the employer as opposed to romance with the employer ... There is certainly strength in numbers,” the union said.

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) also demanded a 100 percent salary increment, which it said would cushion its members from the tanking economy.

“Artuz hereby warns the government to expeditiously give a salary rise or face a backlash from employees. Teachers are ready to fight for a living wage.

“We remain open to dialogue but we have other means to force the employer to act,” the militant rural teachers’ body said.

Estimates suggest the poverty datum line (PDL) — which measures the cost of a given standard of living that must be attained if a person is deemed not to be poor — has gone up to $800 on the back of rising prices.

But many civil servants earn an average $400 per month — which ranks them among the lowest paid workers in the country.

The 2015 Civil Service Audit revealed that the government has about 188 070 workers on its payroll — excluding the uniformed forces and Health Services Board personnel.

The government’s wage bill chews the bulk of the National Budget — leaving very little for other key programmes.

In March, dozens of placard-waving teachers and their union leaders stormed Mnangagwa’s offices, where they handed over a petition demanding salary increments, among other demands.

And on the eve of Independence Day this year, the government even fired nurses who had gone on strike, pressing for improved allowances and salaries — a decision which was later rescinded.

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