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Furore over civil servants USD allowances

by Staff reporter
08 Jan 2022 at 06:24hrs | Views
THE government has offered its employees and pensioners a Covid-19 risk allowance in United States dollars (USD) as it seeks to cushion them against the high cost of living but workers have scoffed at the "token allowance".

According to a government circular released by the Public Service Commission (PSC) dated January 4, 2022, civil servants and pensioners would be paid the foreign currency allowance with effect from January 1, 2022. The allowances will be paid in hard currency of US$75 and US$30 to civil servants and pensioners, respectively.

The USD allowance follows a recent request for a salary increase by public service workers and pensioners, some of whom – such as teachers — have even threatened to down tools in protest of poor remuneration.

"Treasury is committed to paying the Covid-19 risk allowance in hard currency of US$75 and US$30 to civil servants and pensioners respectively. Please be advised that this payment should benefit from the banking arrangements used for processing of the 2021 bonus payments", the PSC said.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima could not be drawn to discuss finer details of the Covid-19 allowance.

"The statement issued is coming from the Ministry and you need to talk to the civil servants and pensioners as they are the ones affected. You can get a reaction from them," Mavima said.

The Apex Council, which is the umbrella body for civil servants organisations in salary negotiations is expected to meet the government to discuss welfare issues including the recently announced risk allowance.

Chairperson of the council Cecelia Alexander could not comment on the matter.

"Civil Service Apex Council (CSAC) is yet to meet with the government for further discussion so as to officialise the issued statement on the Covid-19 allowance for the public service workers and pensioners," Alexander said.

The Apex Council has been of the argument that the payment of bonuses in USD last year by the government was an indication that the state has capacity to pay USD salaries. Progressive Teachers Union Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general Raymond Majongwe rebuffed the government offer of USD allowances.

"The Covid-19 allowance is the same as before but is coming under a different name. What we want as teachers is enough money to take care of our families and pay bills.  The USD$75\US$30 is merely the government trying to silence us and not addressing the real challenges.

"In the event that we accept the allowance, then that means there should be a monthly increment until we reach the October 2018 salaries," Majongwe said.

Prior to the latest announcement, civil servants and pensioners have been receiving this allowance although the payment was in local currency at the foreign currency auction rate on the day of payment.

Most Zimbabwean workers have been receiving low salaries and poor working conditions even before the pandemic hit the country.

Government at one point introduced Covid-19 risk allowances for health workers but the money was little compared to salaries and allowances paid in the region.

Health workers even went on strike demanding risk allowances and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to deal with the deadly virus. They returned to work after the government reviewed some of the allowances.

Zimbabwe has endured a biting economic meltdown for the past two decades, resulting in failure to pay civil servants a decent wage despite the declaration of a budget surplus by the Treasury.

Source - The Zimbabwe Independent
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