Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti has flatly rejected a June pay increase for civil servants saying that the government can only give state workers a raise if 75,000 ghost workers are sacked and proceeds from Marange diamond sales are accounted for.
Sources quoted Biti as saying he can only increase salaries for 160,000 of 235,000 state employees. His position has been strengthened by a recent report from the International Monetary Fund setting the number of questionable civil servants at 38,000.
Biti emphasized that the government is simply too poor to increase civil servant salaries up to a minimum US$250 as President Robert Mugabe promised in April.
Talks continue between government and state worker representatives under the Apex Council which bargains for all public employees. But the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe called for a general strike starting Wednesday if no raise is agreed.
Apex Council Chairwoman Tendai Chikowore said not all workers will join the strike.\
“We are expecting the government to make a formal announcement this week about the proposed pay increases and therefore we are not expected to join the strike called by one of the teachers’ unions,” Chikowore told VOA reporter Gibbs Dube
Progressive Teachers Union General Secretary Raymond Majongwe said all civil servants should join the strike “because we think that we have waited for too long for a pay increase and we cannot be prisoners of hope.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Union chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said he believes it is still worth engaging the government on the longstanding issue of public employee wages.
ZANU-PF officials in Zimbabwe's national unity government last week said Harare is looking at increasing public salaries to a range of US$253 to US$397. But Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro dismissed the figures as wishful thinking.
Most Zimbabwean civil servants take home less than US$200 a month.