Last week civil servants representatives under the Apex Council – the negotiating umbrella body of all public workers except the armed forces – held a meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in desperate attempts to force the government to increase their low salaries.
However, they came out of the meeting empty-handed as the PM told them that the government had no money to bank-roll any salary increments.
Instead PM Tsvangirai assured them that he would raise the issue of salaries with his Cabinet colleagues.
In a circular to members dated 16 February 2012, a day after their representatives met with the PM, ZIMTA chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu, said the consultative meeting with the premier was effective in as far as presenting the public service workers appeal to his office as well as gaining his support on the issues.
“However, as this was not a negotiating forum no commitments were obtained, save for promises to lend support by the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, ZIMTA will urge members of Apex to stoke the salary brazier for positive results by July 2012,” Ndlovu wrote to members.
He further told members that the APEX council nonetheless informed the PM that the 2012 budget was exclusionary as it gave little thought to government workers’ needs.
“Government negotiators seemed not to have been mandated to advance any government position. Apex Council also observed that governmentwas long on rhetoric regarding non-monetary awards, which to date had not been auctioned and where an attempt to implement some of the recommendations was made, government had done so with little impact in improving conditions of service,” reads part of a document handed to the PM.
In his response the PM is said to have been receptive and accommodative and ultimately committed himself to present the issues to the Cabinet Task Force on Salaries and Conditions of Service.
He allegedly reiterated the government position on its lack of capacity to meet workers demands due to the alleged under performanceof the economy.
Civil servants want the least paid to get US$538 a month against the present monthly salary of US$250. They are also demanding better housing and transport allowances.
In his birthday interview with the state media, President Robert Mugabe also stated that the coalition government has no financial wherewithal to fund salary increments. But the civil servants are pinning their hopes on proceeds from diamond sales.
According to Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, the country has the potential of generating at least US$2 billion annually from the sale of Marange diamonds.