BY MOSES MATENGA
CIVIL servants yesterday attacked the United Stated dollar-denominated bonus as not enough, with teacher unions warning that it would not stop them from going on strike beginning Monday.
Civil servants have been pushing for US dollar salaries, but government has been pleading incapacity.
In a letter dated November 3, 2021 signed by Finance permanent secretary George Guvamatanga and addressed to Public Service Commission secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe, Health Services Board acting executive director Angelbert Mbengwa, and Judicial Service Commission secretary Walter Chikwana, government promised its restive workers a US dollar-denominated 13th cheque to cushion them against the harsh economic climate.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said the announcement smacked of a campaign gimmick given that the 2023 polls were around the corner.
“The struggle has never been a struggle over bonus. It has always been a struggle over restoration of purchasing power parity of teachers pegged at US$520, so anything less than that is a charade and issue of misrepresentation,” he said.
“Coming to the issue of the bonus, it lacks clarity because it is not a product of negotiations with any representative of the workers. It was peddled as a form of propaganda or campaign tool perhaps towards 2023.”
He added: “The real issue is what we know is it will be a bonus on basic salary and basic salary means if you remove transport allowance, which is a bit over $2 000 and housing allowance for over $1 000 plus COVID-19 allowance, you remain with something like $12 000, so that by two months, it’s $24 000 and that money is only US$200. That falls far short of our demand for a month’s salary of US$520.”
Zhou said it was pointless for the government to award its workers a US dollar bonus, only to pay them in local currency in December.
“We cannot celebrate this US$200 just for one month and thereafter there is nothing. That to me is a charade and it is unfortunate. Government should focus on restoring the salaries workers were getting prior to October 2018. We are not interested in this tokenism, but we want a permanent solution to solve the real issue.”
Zhou said the PTUZ would not invigilate Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council final year examinations despite the bonus.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said: “We want our salaries in US dollars inasmuch as we appreciate what they have done. It is not enough to appreciate the worker. We are concerned on how the US dollar component is going to be distributed because banks have no money.”
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) also said the US dollar bonus would be resisted if government pegs it at the interbank rate.
Artuz vowed to embark on a 12-day industrial action to push for US dollar salaries beginning Monday.
“We should not allow this gimmick by the government to bribe us into pacification,” Artuz said in a statement.
But Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said the bonus was a welcome development that ought to be celebrated as a victory for the civil servants.
Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions secretary-general David Dzatsunga chipped in, saying: “It’s an exciting development and it speaks to our long-term demands to say workers must be paid in US dollars, all workers and not just civil servants. Most businesses are charging in US dollars and as a consequence local currency is not viable. Come the new financial year, I hope it will continue.”