Dialogue between govt, civil servants critical

HARARE - Information flying around, of a crippling civil service strike early next year must be taken seriously.

Civil servants have told their employer that if their demands are not met, they will embark on a nationwide industrial action capable of disrupting government operations.

Already, junior doctors have been on strike for over three weeks now, while their senior colleagues have since joined in.

This was after government failed to address their grievances and demands — resulting in operations at public health institutions being severely affected.

The civil servants have been agitating for either mega pay hikes in bond notes, or to be paid in United States dollars, to cushion them from the country’s ever deteriorating economic environment. 

Following government’s outright rejection of the public servants’ demands to be paid in US dollars, the Apex Council — which represents hundreds of thousands of civil servants across the public sector — was adamant the government should pay its workers a minimum of $1 733 or the equivalent in US dollars.

However, experience has shown that government is usually insincere when handling employee grievances, although they have been patient all along in the face of mounting economic challenges.

At times government has responded by threatening to fire or actually sacking them like what happened with striking nursing staff back in April. 

Teachers who have been marching from Mutare to Harare in protest over deteriorating working conditions to hand over a petition to government were also briefly arrested over the weekend although they were later freed. 

Government must learn that dialogue — sincere in all respects — is the only route to amity. Adopting combative, intransigent tactics undoubtedly breeds mistrust and continued fighting as either side defends its position. 

Workers in all sectors of the economy have endured shrinking wage value following shortages and a spate of increases in prices of basic commodities, including fuel, in the last couple of months.

When workers demand US dollar salaries, they are only responding to what is happening on the ground and deserve an ear and government — as their employer — must try to act on these pleas. It may not be too much to ask for when someone — after going for decades without any reasonable earnings’ adjustment — presents a salary-related grievance. Sincerity often leads to the success of any form of dialogue government might have with its workforce. In the absence of that, any negotiations may ultimately prove to be counter-productive.


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