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Zimbabwe State Phone Company Workers Disdain 100% Pay Rise

Zimbabwe's state fixed-line phone company Tel-One has doubled worker wages in response to inflation approaching 1,300% in a holding action pending approval by its board of new salary negotiations with the telecommunications workers union.

But the union has accused Tel-One of using a tactic it employed last year when, the union says, eventually refused to negotiate higher wages for the fourth quarter.

Tel-One workers want wages to take into account the poverty line set each month by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe. The council's most recent survey set the monthly cost of food and other essentials for a family of six at Z$352,000, or US$85 at the parallel market exchange rate that applies to most daily transactions.

Most Tel-One workers are making about Z$64,000 (US$15), not including the 100% increase which is to go into effect next month.

Many workers at the phone company are especially aggrieved because their pay for December was in some cases entirely consumed by surging health care deductions. The company offered to lend workers a month’s salary at a low interest rate.

In 2004 the company fired more than 1,000 employees who went on strike.

Communications and Allied Services Workers Union of Zimbabwe President Lovemore Matombo, also president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tel-One management is not taking talks seriously and is counting on fear of layoffs to keep workers in line.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...