Civil service unions admit strike call ignored, plan September shutdown

HARARE – Civil servants’ unions admitted that their two-day strike called for Wednesday and Thursday was unsuccessful after most workers did not join for fear of victimisation by the government.

The unions have however threatened “massive industrial action” in September if their pay demands are not met.

“Our assessment is that most civil servants did not take part in the exercise due to varying reasons which include: most members expressed fear of victimisation by their superiors in various ministries.

“Many indicated that they were docked part of their salaries pursuant to the incapacitation declared by education sector unions in February 2022. This instilled fear in some civil servants, with the result that some, despite the obvious incapacitation, still failed to exercise their constitutional rights to collective job action.”

The civil servants are demanding United States dollar salaries at the same level as they were paid before October 2018 when Zimbabwe lifted the 1:1 pegging between the United States dollar and the bond note.

The government raised salaries by 100 percent this month, but unions say the pay fell far too short of their demands for at least US$540 to the lowest paid worker.

Public sector workers are, after the increment, paid US$175 in allowances as well as a minimum RTGS dollar component of about Z$60,000 (US$75).

The government insists that it does not have the capacity to bankroll United States dollar salaries.

Unions say the government’s heavy-handed response to previous strikes has instilled a sense of fear. Members who took part in similar strikes in recent months were excluded from the 2022 census and voter registration exercises.

“This reduced the number of participants in the exercise as some still hope to be included in future national programmes purely for financial reasons,” said the representatives.

The unions also claim threats were made on social media against their members who had intentions to take part in the strike especially those in “political hotbeds away from the urban areas.”

“In some sectors like education, some have continued to report for work based on the argument that they are marking mid-year examinations, and would still find their work waiting for them after two days,” the unions said.

“Others also survive from the lessons they hold in schools, and the snacks they sell to learners.”

Unions are warning of a prolonged job action in September 2022, in the event that the government does not yield to workers’ demands.

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