Civil servants scorn forex Covid-19 allowances

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Harare (New Ziana)-Civil servants representatives on Friday criticized the government decision to pay them the Covid-19 risk allowance in hard currency, describing it as a “pre-emptive move” ahead of a negotiating meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.

The Zimbabwe government announced that it would, starting this month, pay its workers and pensioners the Covid-19 risk allowance in United States dollars.

The allowance, which the government introduced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, was being paid in local currency, although pegged in US dollars.

Civil servants were receiving an equivalent of US$75 in local currency monthly, and government pensioners US$30 converted to Zimbabwe dollars.

Zimbabwe Confederation of public sector trade unions president Cecilia Alexander said the government should have waited for the Wednesday negotiating forum meeting instead of trying to pre-empt the talks.

“We are surprised that the press is awash with answers which were supposed to come in next week’s meeting,” she said.

Alexander said at next week’s meeting, the government was expected to bring responses to workers’ demand for United States dollar denominated pay.

“We held a meeting in December where we agreed as parties that we would meet early this year,” she said.

“We have actually proposed that the government pays salaries in United States dollars so that we curb what is happening on the parallel market. Every time we negotiate (in local currency), we end up in a worse situation; before we even receive the money, all prices of goods and services will go up.

“So we are expecting a reply from the government,” she said.

Civil servants have long been clamouring for the government to pay them US$520 per month which they claim they were earning in 2008 before the government adopted the multiple currency regime.

The Zimbabwe government is on record saying that it does not have the capacity to meet the demands of its employees, bearing in mind its limited ability to generate foreign currency due to years of economic decline.

It has however reiterated its commitment to improve their remuneration and working conditions and as a sign of this, in November last year it paid them their bonuses in US dollars.

In addition to the Covid-19 risk allowances now being paid in US dollars, the government has introduced a raft of other incentives for its workers including non-monetary ones such as transport and housing.

New Ziana

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