Zimbabwe’s restive civil servants have given the three top figures in the unity government in Harare 14 days to increase public employee salaries or risk the enforcement of pay demands through labor actions.
Economists warned that a strike could shake the cash-strapped government to its roots. President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara are on leave until February.
Negotiations deadlocked this week after the public service commission offered increases ranging from US$7 to U$21 a month. The highest-paid civil servant would earn US$236 a month, entry-level workers just US$150.
State employees have demanded a total entry-level wage of US$630 a month – US$460 plus housing and transportation allowances.
The Public Service Association, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe in a news conference Wednesday called the state offer “ridiculous and out of sync with the cost of living.”
A statement said the government "should be warned that civil servants may deliver half-baked services that may ultimately compromise the government process. The representative organizations added: "We are giving the leadership of this country 14 days to decisively intervene on this issue as a matter of urgency before it blossoms into conflict.”
Teachers Association Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that a meeting Wednesday with Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro ended in a deadlock.
But Mukonoweshuro told reporter Blessing Zulu that no ultimatum has been set, describing the 14-day period as a time for consultations.