The government says it will not give in to civil servants’ demands for a salary increase as it has to strike a balance between meeting wage obligations and investing in infrastructural development.
The government is also wary of derailing the ongoing International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff monitored programme, which places emphasis on capping the wage bill.
Civil servants have for the past three years been pushing for salaries that tally with the poverty datum line, now pegged at ZW$40 000 (US$476) per month for a family of six.
Meanwhile, most public servants are earning around ZW$17 000, the equivalent to US$200.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that raising civil servants’ salaries to the same level as PDL would be counterproductive. He said:
That is counterproductive. This is why we are talking about maintaining minimal changes for now because we want to maintain a balance where we can reserve resources for the construction of roads, schools, health facilities instead of paying public servants just to sit without service delivery or infrastructural delivery.
There has to be a painful and sometimes delicate balance between meeting the demand of our public service and maintain some resources for the country.
Mavima was speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing eighth edition of Continental Africa Public Service Day commemorations in Victoria Falls.
A series of wage talks between civil servants’ representatives and government officials have produced very little.
Mavima however, admitted that the government was seized with the issue and was cognisant of the fact it needed to restore value of the employees in real terms. He said:
There was quite some erosion that took place in employees’ salaries due to the necessary transformation of monetary policy that moved us away from the US dollar remuneration to where we introduced the Zimbabwean dollar.
Salaries remained at the same level even the value of the Zim dollar had reduced compared to the US dollar.
So we got to a situation where for example teachers when earning US$500 and got to point of earning an equivalent of US$30 or US$40 per month.
So we understand we have to balance that request with what the country can afford at this particular time.
I’m glad to say that we have moved from that US$40-50 equivalent salary to where we are now around US$200 if you use the official exchange rate.
So we have progressed significantly but we need to find means and ways of increasing salaries and wages of public service in real value. That will make them motivated.