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Zimbabwe's Lowest-Paid Civil Servants Get a Raise - But Can Harare Afford It?

The lowest-paid government worker will now receive a basic salary of $153, up from $128, though some economists say the government doesn't have the means to afford even this modest wage increase

Unions representing Zimbabwe's government workers agreed Friday to accept a pay rise boosting salaries of the lowest-paid state workers to $253 a month starting this month.

Entry-level government workers will receive US$153 a month compared with US$128 previously, including a US$50 housing allowance and a US$44 travel allowance.

The Apex Council, which represents all Zimbabwean civil servants, accepted the increase although the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, whose members have been on strike since early this week, dismissed the increment as paltry.

PTUZ General Secretary Raymond Majongwe stormed out of a news conference called by the Apex Council to announce the negotiated salary increase.

Majongwe later told VOA that the Apex Council, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association and others were selling out by accepting "peanuts."

The Apex Council includes representatives of the Progressive Teachers Union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, the Public Service Association and the College Lecturers’ Association of Zimbabwe.

Apex Council President Tendai Chikowore said the pay rise would take affect in July and would remain in place through December 31, with a review to take place in January.

“A protracted process of negotiations and consultations between government and the leadership of the Apex Council has resulted in an agreement," Chikowore said, adding that the objective now was to push wages up to the poverty line around US$500.

“We don’t need a spirit medium to speak on our behalf," said Majongwe. "We are very disappointed and we want to state categorically that we are unhappy.”

Other union leaders accused Majongwe of grandstanding, noting that his PTUZ had accepted the increase during negotiations only to renege at the news conference.

ZIMTA Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu said civil servants are elated they are getting even a modest pay rise that will help make ends meet. He said the government can afford it.

But economist John Robertson said he doesn’t see where the government will find the money, and commentator Rejoice Ngwenya, reached at a Nyanga seminar on the Zimbabwean economy, said revenues are insufficient to fund the increase.

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