Harare, (New Ziana)–The civil servants union representative body, the Apex Council said on Tuesday it had notified government of its members’ inability to continue coming to work as expected due to low salaries.
The union said a combination of high inflation and ongoing currency reforms had drastically eroded their salaries, when pegged to the greenback, from an average of US$475 in the past to US$40 now for the lowest paid worker.
Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander said some workers were now having to borrow money from loan sharks for transport to work, a situation that was untenable.
“The Civil Service Apex Council would like to notify all civil servants that at the NJNC (National Joint Negotiating Council) meeting convened on October 14 2019, the council officially served government with a notice of incapacitation,” Alexander told journalists.
The declaration, she said, was not some form of industrial action like a stay away or strike.
She said the council had told government to benchmark their October 2018 salary of US$475 to the official exchange rate or index the wages to inflation.
“In our notice of notification, we also posited that government can alternatively consider a model that will see salaries being automatically adjusted to inflation shifts that have now become the norm,” she said.
While government has since the beginning of the year adjusted salaries and allowances to cushion its employees, Alexander said last month’s 76 percent salary increase had since been wiped by inflation.
The declaration of incapacitation, she said, was meant to protect workers who may find themselves unable to come to work because they have no money for transport, for accommodation and other amenities.
She said public servants must not borrow money to commute to and from work.
“It is not your duty to subsidise the employer,” she said.
The lowest paid civil servant currently earns ZWL$1 023.
The poverty datum line is over ZWL$1 500.
“Our RTGS dollar salaries are first taxed by the employer, the Reserve Bank and more steeply by mobile money agencies,” she said.
“We cannot bear the burden of austerity on our own.”
In the declaration, the Apex Council said it was “amazed” government was allowing its agencies to benchmark their prices to the United States dollar while salaries were not.
“Workers can no longer afford to look after themselves and their families due to the unaffordability of goods and services,” the council said.