Government and unions representing civil servants adjourned negotiations to later this week after yesterday’s discussions on salaries, wages and other employment terms.
Public Service Commission (PSC) Secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe said the meeting of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) is expected to finalise concerns of civil servants.
“The meeting has ended without an agreement as yet, but we requested that they should reconnect soon, and we expect talks to resume later this week.
“As is normal, the negotiating parties might need to consult with members and I think that is the reason they have asked to convene it on a later date before finalising on the proposal put on the table by both parties,” said Ambassador Wutawunashe.
The meeting comes as some civil servants, especially in the education sector, have embarked on industrial action. Some are holding out for US dollar salaries or local currency converted at the prevailing market rate.
Government has made it clear there would be no return to US dollar salaries and that all expenditure must be tied to revenue, with no borrowing for recurrent expenditure.
However, rising tax revenues have already allowed Government to make unilateral wage increases and pay Covid-19 allowances.
In February workers sought a minimum salary of US$238 for the lowest paid.
However, Ambassador Wutawunashe said the ongoing negotiations will not be tied to what was discussed in earlier meetings, but will focus on the prevailing economic situation.
“We hope they will reconnect this week so that we come up with a definitive position to the public. Both parties put their proposals on the table, but we can only make public what has been agreed.
“Negotiations are not based on what was discussed before, but we will be taking into consideration the prevailing market conditions,” said Ambassador Wutawunashe.
He noted that the good thing was that the exchange rate has stabilised and in some cases prices are beginning to fall. Last month there was Tripartite Negotiating Forum meeting which was anchored on encouraging employees to be realistic in their demands.
In that meeting business lobby groups advised Government to avoid the risk of scaring away investment from the country by pegging salaries at a level that can potentially make labour costs unsustainable.
After the meeting Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima, who is also the TNF chairperson, said submissions from business emanates from the success recorded on the macro-economic front which cannot be torpedoed at this stage.
“We discussed the issue of the erosion of salaries and issues of stabilisation of the economy (and) of the currency, that is what took centre stage.
“Business is also saying if we peg the minimum wage at a high level it could affect the viability of businesses and lead to further retrenchment of people and upset their viability as business,” said Minister Mavima.
“We are urging that workers remain moderate in the demands so that we do not upset them.
“But workers are saying in February we indicated that we could take US$238 not necessarily paid in USD, but if paid in local currency they do not mind, but they want it equivalent to US$238.”
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Dr Tinashe Manzungu explained why pegging high salaries will increase the cost of production for local goods.
“Across the globe, governments give guidance on the salaries structure and businesses use the figures pegged by the Government as a yardstick.
“But what we are saying is that we cannot afford to pay unsustainable high salaries which will increase cost of production.”
“Salaries are a recurrent expenditure and must be sustainable to keep businesses viable. If the cost of production is high, then local businesses cannot compete on the international market.”
“Most businesses are recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and we need to have policies that protect local industries.
“But at the same time we are not saying labour must be for free neither are we saying we should pay slave wages.
“Salaries must cater for a decent life but, they must be sustainable for the employer as well,” said Dr Manzungu.