HARARE, September 14 (The Source) – Civil service labour union, the Apex Council, on Wednesday said it rejected Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s “insensitive” proposals, to reduce spending by cutting salaries and jobs, as well as suspending bonuses.
Last Thursday, Chinamasa said government finances were overstretched and it ran the risk of failing to pay its workers in the near future as salaries accounted for 97 percent of government revenues, which were also falling due to lack of productivity in the economy.
In a cocktail of measures targeted at cutting expenses, the Finance Minister said 25,000 workers would be laid off in the next two years while salary cuts would also be implemented.
But in a stunning policy somersault, government issued a statement late Tuesday saying the spending cuts had twice been rejected by Cabinet and would not be implemented.
“The Apex Council rejects the statement by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development as it was made without due consultation with the workers,” the civil service representative body said after its meeting on Wednesday.
“While the Apex Council accepts the retraction by the Minister of Information, Chris Mushohwe, it is our view that such a retraction should be communicated officially through the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC).”
The NJNC, which is due to meet this Friday, is the platform through which government and the civil service unions meet to deliberate on issues affecting the workers, estimated at 298 000.
The Apex Council said it “holds every minister collectively responsible for the insensitive, impoverishing and unilateral proposals by the Minister of Finance.”
A July strike by civil servants, mostly teachers and health workers, mothballed into the biggest demonstration against President Robert Mugabe in a decade, as it coincided with a nationwide shut-down called by grassroots movements protesting against the government’s handling of a deepening economic crisis.
Under pressure from declining revenues and bonus payments carried over from last year, government has, since June, struggled to pay its employees on time.
The civil service has been pushing for a hike in salaries in line with the Poverty Datum Line, estimated at around $500, but has eased off this push, in light of the government’s financial predicament.
The Apex Council said it also rejected the findings of a Civil Service audited by the Public Service Commission which it said was “crafted, adopted and implemented without due consultation.”