Zimbabwe: Public workers threaten strike over delayed pay

By Nqobile Bhebhe
Posted on Monday, 4 January 2016 11:19

Civil servants in the southern African nation are yet to be paid their December salaries, with the government promising to pay them by Tuesday, but this has not been enough to calm the restive workers.

more than 90 per cent of nurses and 80 per cent of doctors have heeded the call

Only teachers, who make up the bulk of the public workers, and soldiers have received their salaries, although these were also delayed. Government only managed to pay soldiers in early December.

Nurses and doctors have said they will not report for duty until they have received their salaries and have been given a concrete date on when they would receive their annual bonuses, traditionally paid in November.

Despite government claims that most health workers have been reporting for duty since the beginning of the year, nurses and doctors’ associations say “more than 90 per cent of nurses and 80 per cent of doctors have heeded the call” to strike.

The Zimbabwe Nurses Association said their salaries were not enough to stretch beyond December 31 and they had no means to travel to work.

The government responded by offering the nurses $2 each per day for transport and lunch so they could report to work, an overture that has been described as piecemeal.

In a circular, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Gerald Gwinji said measures should be put in place to ensure that those in critical areas are at work.

“Following the threat of work stoppage by some health workers … and the attendant transport challenges, you are hereby requested to make contingent plans to ensure that all hospital critical areas are adequately staffed and remain functional during the period January 1 to 5 2016.

As the situation gets desperate, central bank chief, John Mangudya held a series of meetings with representatives of the public workers.

The southern African country spends more than 80 percent of its budget on salaries, mainly for the army, police, teachers and nurses.

The International Monetary Fund has advised the Zimbabwean government to cut its 550,000 strong workforce, something the southern African nation’s authorities seem averse to, as the economy struggles with weak commodity prices and high unemployment.

The country has been financing its entire budget from taxes since lenders, including the Bretton Woods institutions, said they will only consider giving Zimbabwe fresh loans only after it has cleared its debts.

But despite being faced with falling tax revenues, a decision by Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa to issue a two-year freeze on bonuses in April last year was reversed by President Robert Mugabe.

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