By Professor Matodzi
Harare, December 10, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche has given bickering government labour leaders a five-day ultimatum to put their house in order so as to expedite negotiations for a long awaited salary hike for the famished public servants.
Divisions within the Apex Council, a body that represents civil servants in salary negotiations have been widening as union leaders fail to agree on a consolidated list of representatives to represent and negotiate on behalf of government employees.
The divisions recently resulted in the cancellation of a scheduled meeting after the feuding workers’ leaders failed to reach an agreement on a list of union bosses who should lead negotiations.
Informed sources told Radio VOP that Goche issued the ultimatum during a meeting held Tuesday in Harare where he told the government workers’ leaders to amicably reconstitute the Apex Council and speak with one voice.
This came after the Apex council submitted two different lists of negotiators to the government, one drafted by the Zimbabwe Teachers Association and the College Lectures Association of Zimbabwe led by David Dzatsunga. Under the Apex council, the government workers unions are required to second nine representatives to the negotiating table.
Goche said the standoff between the Apex council members had made it difficult for his ministry to conclude the salary negotiations which should be effected in January.
“Goche told us to sort out our issues and agree on who should be on the negotiating table as he wants the salary issue done with. However, we are saying teachers can’t negotiate on behalf of lecturers and other professionals,” said a source who attended the meeting.
The sources said the meeting was abandoned as the union leaders failed to agree on one list of negotiators and had failed to draft a position paper on salaries and conditions of service before negotiating with the government for higher salaries under the National Joint Negotiating Council.
Civil servants have in recent years resorted to strikes to demand higher salaries. The lowest paid government worker currently earns $250 a month and union bosses want salaries hiked to $590 per month to cover rising living costs.
The civil service is estimated to be around 230 000 and public workers’ salaries gobble at least 70 percent of the country’s national budget. Private sector employees are also reeling as employers are reducing worker’s salaries while several companies have shut down.