Dialogue key to avert strikes

June 23, 2022

Health sector employees embarked on an industrial action on Monday demanding a salary review.

The industrial action comes after the civil servants last week rejected a 100% salary increment by the government insisting that they should be paid about US$540. They want a bigger portion of that in United States dollar and remainder in local currency at the willing-buyer-willing seller exchange rate  in the interim.

Some teachers have also joined the industrial action, making it a winter of discontent. The 100% salary increase would have resulted in the lowest government employee earning ZWL$36,000. The civil servant also get US$175 in allowances.

The industrial action comes as the cost of living has spiked to over ZWL$130,000.

Prices of  basic goods and services have gone up in local currency and in United States dollar amid calls for the redollarisation of the economy. The government insists the Zimbabwe dollar is here to stay and will move mountains to sustain the use of the local unit.

That the civil servants would go on strike was evident after its proposed meeting with the government was postponed three times. They even approached Parliament to force the government to the negotiating table.

Last week, the government met representatives of the civil servants after nurses had submitted notice to go on industrial action.

This industrial action could have been avoided if the government had shown commitment in addressing the concerns of its employees.

Instead, it had become an arrogant employer in the hope that the threats to go on strike would remain as threats.

That bad blood that existed between the government and its employees was laid bare after the former docked salaries for striking teachers who failed to report for classes saying they had no bus fare.

The biggest losers in this latest standoff between the government and its employees will be the sick that have to go to government hospitals and be turned away. They cannot afford private hospitals which cost an arm and a leg.

The senior government officials will not be affected by the industrial action. They have private hospitals at their disposal. They can also get into the next plane for treatment abroad.

Parents that had toiled to raise school fees have nowhere to turn to. They will have to dig deeper to look for money for extra lessons, especially those with children in exams classes.

The bureaucrats in government can afford to send their children to private schools or abroad. They have the luxury of engaging home tutors.

It is not only the government that has to take care of its employees. The private sector should take the lead to cushion workers against the hard economic environment with some employers reviewing salaries monthly.

Where the resources are there, there is no reason the salaries cannot be reviewed. Some companies have begun giving grocery hampers as they cushion and also seek to retain  employees. They cannot afford an exodus of skilled personnel.


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