Though negotiators for Zimbabwean civil servants have threatened a national strike next week to enforce demands for higher salaries, a leading teachers union whose members have already engaged a sit-in strike complain that it has been upstaged.
The APEX Council, which negotiates with the government on behalf of civil servants, has called for a strike starting next Thursday if the government does not come to terms.
But the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has dismissed that threatened strike as a non-event, complaining that the APEX Council has undermined its position.
PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou said APEX Council moves have stalled negotiations on behalf of teachers. But Sifiso Ndlovu, head of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association and a member of the APEX Council, said the PTUZ charges are nonsensical.
In any case, observers say Zimbabwe does not have the means to increase civil servant salaries even under threat of a strike. They say any increase in salaries would have to be funded out of revenues from the Marange diamond field in the east of the country, just as the last increase in July 2011 was made possible by a diamond windfall.
Economists and analysts said Zimbabwe would also have to divert resources from social services like education and health to cover the costs of increased public sector salaries, which already account for a whopping 70 percent of the budget.
Economic commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said the only way the financially strapped government can boost salaries is to tap diamond revenues.
Meanwhile, the state-controlled Grain Marketing Board has begun to distribute food baskets to civil servants based in Zimbabwe's rural areas. The GMB along with local partners under the Civil Servants Food Benefit Scheme will supply groceries to help rural workers who must travel far from home to purchase basic commodities.
Civil servants approved for participation will pay 10 dollars a month for a basket including 20 kilos of rice, among other basic commodities.
But some civil servants said they had seen such plans before and are skeptical.
Tafadzwa Takawira, a primary school teacher in Mashonaland East province, said previous food-support programs have lacked proper management.