APEX Council Chairperson Tendai Chikowore had to bow down to pressure to from angry civil servants, who were gathered at in Harare on Friday for a report back meeting for the negotiations between government and the civil service unions, and announced the beginning of the job action.
Chikowore had hinted that civil servants go back to work until after Monday’s Bulawayo meeting but the desperate and tired civil servants could have none of that. “Government must meet our demands as we are tired of their mockery of paltry dog tax guised as salaries. Now is the time to shame the devil,” said Chikowore.
Chikowore said that the government was trying to distract the civil servants from engaging in a productive strategy to have their grievances addressed. “Forget about the media report that seeks to distract us from our action. What you decide now will stand,” she said.
The APEX council is a combination of civil service unions’ namely Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Zimbabwe Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ZIMTA), and Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ), College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe (COLAZ), Public Service Association (PSA) and representing civil servants in the negotiations with government.
The meeting attended by close to 2000 civil servants came to a near clash with ordinary servants disputing Chikowore and other leaders’ position of parking the strike “until the appropriate time”.
“There is no appropriate time like this. The time is now and we must act now. We are sick and tired of these things and we must confront this devil now. These are desperate scenarios that call for desperate measures. Enough is enough,” said David Dzatsunga the president of COLAZ.
Other civil servants had to confront and shut out Chikowore after she had hinted that they were going for an afternoon meeting with the government on Friday hence the need to wait for the outcome and the Bulawayo meeting on Monday. “Don’t sell out, we know you will be tricked and nothing will come out so as from now on we have no reason to go to work. If you can’t stand for us then you would have sold out,” said one visibly emotional civil servant who strolled to the stage.
Civil servants erupted in song and dance and shouting in protest of the resolution passed by the leadership until Chikowore finally averted the confusion and declared, “Zvido zvenyu kunyanya”.
Government workers surviving on an average monthly salary of US$160 want the government to peg salaries to a minimum wage of US$600.
The strike action is the first against the coalition government since it came into office in February last year.
But the government, which is already using 60 percent of total collected revenues on salaries, says it does not have money to fund any significant wage hikes. Since the formation of the unity government, teachers had returned to work while state hospitals were admitting patients again as nurses and junior doctors resumed their duties.
The strike action could see basic services such as health and education collapse again as civil servants strike down their tools.