HARARE – Government has, for the past few decades, had to battle a restive employee body that continued to pester its employer over working conditions.
Admittedly, people’s salaries and wages have been undergoing gradual erosion in terms of value since 2012, despite multi-currencies having been introduced into the economy way back in 2009. This erosion has worsened on the back of rising prices of basic commodities that is obtaining.
In some cases, especially medical care, service providers have started charging in US dollars for medication and even consultation for others.
The advent of bond notes — a surrogate currency introduced in 2016 — has worsened the situation as ever since their introduction, we have seen a three-tier pricing system with different prices being charged for bond notes, transfers as well as mobile money transactions.
Now, Zimbabweans have to incur another two percent in the form of a transactional tax introduced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently.
Medical insurance, on the other hand is another volatile issue because people contribute towards the different medical schemes and yet when they visit medical facilities, the service providers demand cash up-front, making the role of medical insurance worthless.
Government workers had all along been raising concerns and grievances related to their working conditions but more often than not, the employer has not cooperated at times even threatening to fire or actually firing the concerned workers like happened with the nurses in April this year.
The picture this gave is of a government that is not receptive and is outright intransigent. For some this may appear as downright unwillingness to engage in fruitful discussion with the employee.
Intransigence will obviously be counterproductive as one day, the situation will still boil over but perhaps by then the situation will have deteriorated out of control for government.
In other words, it is important for government to be a listening employer lest the workforce will start to think otherwise. Today there is wave of demand for payment of salaries in US dollars, which government will find too daunting to attempt to do.
Government must be exemplary in how it treats its employees so that private companies can emulate. Failure to listen to employees’ concerns and grievances will return to haunt government one day.
When employee representatives approach government with such grievances, government must always be sincere. This ensures that the workers’ trust is retained all through.