Civil servants yesterday accepted the 41 percent salary increase by Government, including allowances, with teachers getting an additional 10 percent risk allowance, breaking the ongoing impasse. This opens the way for the newly reopened schools to be fully staffed soon, with all teachers expected to be back in their classrooms this week.
The latest increase will see the least- paid civil servant earning about $14 500 while the lowest-paid teacher will earn a little over $18 000.
Most teachers will now be returning to duty after the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), the largest and oldest teachers union, yesterday advised all its members to return to work while the association continues to press for improvements in conditions of service.
In a statement, Zimta national secretary-general Mr Tapson Nganunu Sibanda said they expected teachers who live at or near their schools, or at least in the same town or city, to be back in their classrooms this week while the association expected those that have a long way to travel to report as soon as they had received November salaries and so had the money for transport.
Teachers should contact their schools and tell them when they will be reporting for duty and why there might be a delay. The education authorities already knew about those who needed to get their salary before travelling long distances.
In an interview yesterday after a meeting of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC), Apex Council chairperson Mrs Cecilia Alexander confirmed the deal. She said Government had increased the basic salary only, but they finally settled for increments which include allowances.
“We have agreed to a cost of living adjustment to be paid as follows: an average salary increase of 41 percent of the total package that is the basic salary, transport and housing allowances plus special civil service allowance. It is going to be effective from November 1, 2020,” she said.
Mrs Alexander said the bonus for 2020, which is paid over two months, was going to be based on the basic salary plus transport and housing allowances.
While the civil servants had accepted the offer, Mrs Alexander said they trusted the Government would continue prioritising their welfare in the coming year. The Government has already made it clear that while it will not borrow or print money to pay civil servants, and so scupper the hard-won economic stability, it will continue as it has been doing this year to improve pay and benefits as tax revenues rise.
Mrs Alexander said a well defined roadmap for civil servants would be crafted in January next year.
“We have settled for the offer because we are now getting at the end of the year and Government is also going to be paying us bonuses for two months. What it means is that if we had refused the offer, civil servants were going to lose bonuses or get paid using calculations of the previous salary structure,” she said.
Mrs Alexander said while the civil servants’ proposal to be paid according to the value of salaries in October 2018 was not met, they settled for the increase in good faith hoping that next year would bring better fortunes.
In its statement last night Zimta made it clear that it expected the authorities to back-peddle on disciplinary action as teachers who considered themselves to be incapacitated to work reported to their schools and that there would be no “overzealous” action. Zimta, like other unions, said it would continue to press for more improvements in pay and conditions of service.
“ZIMTA remains actively engaged in the search of improved conditions of service, salaries and allowances and is now putting together 2021 strategies, taking into cognisance 2020 setbacks,” said Mr Sibanda.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association secretary-general Mr Enock Dongo, who heads the nursing union that has held out the longest, said 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.
However, the vast majority of nurses in the public sector had already resumed full-time duties, with hospital chief executives playing a major role in both getting staff to end industrial action while themselves pressing for improvements in conditions of service. Only a little over 1 000, around 3 percent of the total, were still holding out for limited duties.
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, so inflation recedes as a serious problem. But he has also stressed that while he wants to see civil servants properly rewarded he needs to maintain the fiscal discipline that has created the basis for the new stability and the launchpad for sustained and viable economic growth.