Nurses have welcomed the 40 percent public sector salary rise announced by the Government this week, while teachers’ unions meet tomorrow to re-examine their industrial action, although a growing number are already returning to their classrooms thanks to professionalism and the recent pay increase.
Almost all nurses have returned to full duties, so the pay rise and their risk allowances are seen as a welcome recognition of their own professional standards.
The latest pay rise, effective this month, addressed some of the concerns teachers had been pushing for, including a sector specific allowance which came in the form of an additional 10 percent Covid-19 risk allowance on top of the 40 percent awarded to all Government workers.
The latest increment will see the least-paid civil servant earning $14 528 while the basic pay for a teacher is now $18 237 a month.
The Government this year has been raising salaries of its staff and approving extra allowances as its tax revenues rise to cushion them as much as possible from high inflation seen before the forex auction system stabilised exchange rates in both the formal and informal sectors without waiting for negotiated agreements as delays in such talks simply increase suffering.
Government has made it clear that while it will neither borrow nor print money to meet a salary bill, so wrecking the reforms that have now led to fiscal stability, it has been making pay awards and has indicated it will continue to raise pay as fast as its own revenues rise.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association secretary-general Mr Enock Dongo, who heads the union that has held out the longest, was far more conciliatory in his statement yesterday than he has been recently, saying nurses welcomed the increment awarded by the Government but still wanted a further improvement.
“It is a welcome development by Government and we really appreciate the increment they have offered. It is, however, not yet enough to cater for the cost of living. We expect more. But like I said, this is a positive step and we really appreciate it,” said Mr Dongo.
In separate interviews last night, unions representing various civil servants were concerned their salaries could be eroded by rises in the cost of living, although the stability in exchange rates followed by very low monthly inflation would suggest that any jumps in the cost of living would be the result of profiteering rather than economic fundamentals.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has repeatedly assured the nation that measures put in place to insulate the local currency against erosion are sustainable with the auction system working very well to create a stable base.
Apex Council vice secretary Mr Gibson Mushangu said the unions adjourned their meeting with Government for consultations last week after they were offered a 20 percent increment but are now waiting for input of members after Cabinet approved doubling of the offer.
He however, acknowledged the salary adjustment as a welcome development but was very critical of the recent tariff hikes by Zesa, Zinara and other State concerns that were far greater than the salary increments.
“There are some parastatals like Zesa and Zinara that have raised their tariffs by more than 100 percent when salary increment is 40 percent,” said Mr Mushangu.
In previous months, prices of basic goods have remained stable and in some cases have started falling and there are sentiments that steep tariff hikes by some State enterprises could have an inflationary effect.
Zesa, Zinara and the local authorities that sell water argue that their increments are simply catching up with the inflation in the early part of the year when their tariffs were stable, and in any case their contribution to the cost of living is low.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) would reconvene tomorrow for further deliberations and a detailed explanation of the offer by the Government.
He noted that several issues that needed clarification, including the 10 percent offer for teachers which he said was not publicly explained.
“We requested that explanation and we were told we would get it on Friday. The issue of returning to schools hinges on the explanation we will get from Government on Friday,” said Dr Ndlovu.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Mr Raymond Majongwe said they wanted to talk to Government first before the announcements were made as Government was supposed to negotiate with civil servants through the NJNC.