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Zimbabwe Union Pursues Strike Despite State-Announced Concessions

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said Monday it intended to proceed with a two-day national strike this this week despite government assurances it would amend a decree issued by President Robert Mugabe freezing wages along with prices.

Labor Minister Nicholas Goche was quoted in the state-run Sunday Mail as saying the government would amend the so-called statutory instrument on salaries.

"We are working on amendments as far as pricing is concerned," Goche said. But he added that "the rest of the statutory instrument (which also regulates rentals, service charges, product prices and school fees) remains the same."

Goche said the matter would be finalized on Tuesday.

But Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General Wellington Chibebe told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the timing of the state's announcement suggested it merely wanted to forestall a general strike.

VOA could not obtain comment from the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe.

But the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Callisto Jokonya, said his group is in negotiations with the government over prices. Jokonya however declined to comment on the ZCTU's call for a two-day stay-away.

Elsewhere, the union claimed three of its members were severely assaulted by armed men believed to be state security agents. The union activists were distributing fliers urging workers to take part in the two-day "stayaway" Wednesday and Thursday.

The trade unionists were reportedly forced into a van that sped away. But officials said one of the abducted members managed to phone other activists for help.

A number of ZCTU officials including Secretary General, Wellington Chibebe, were assaulted by police in September 2006 when they tried to mount a protest.

ZCTU spokesperson Khumbulani Ndlovu told reporter Chris Gande that the union will not let itself be intimidated by state agents into calling off the general strike.

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