Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti has told negotiators for state employees that the government is in a financial crisis, tightening the deadlock over the demand by public workers for a significant rise in salaries amid threats of a strike next week.
Biti and Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro met representatives of state employees on Thursday, when the finance minister said resources are tight.
Negotiators had issued an ultimatum demanding an increase in the base pay rate to US$500 a month, roughly equal to the monthly cost of living for an average family. Civil servants dismissed the small pay increases offered by the government early this month putting the base rate for public employees at US$168 a month.
Despite talk of a strike, sources say workers are not unified on how to proceed, some arguing for an industrial action, others proposing to seek an audience with president Robert Mugabe, who will be on annual leave until February 8.
Public Service Minister Mukonoweshuro told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that negotiations with representatives of state workers will continue.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Secretary General Raymond Majongwe said the two ministers wanted discussions Thursday to remain secret.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Ndlovu told reporter Brenda Moyo that his organization won’t call a strike until all avenues of negotiation with the government have been explored.
Elsewhere, ZANU-PF members staged a violent demonstration at Town House in Harare to protest the recent slashing of maize crops in the Kuwadzana and Glenview suburbs, but council officials said that they had not ordered the destruction of crops.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported on the protest.