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US$300 Covid allowance goes permanent as salary

by Staff reporter
12 Jan 2024 at 05:02hrs | Views
Civil servants will now be receiving the old US$300 Covid-19 allowances as part of their permanent pensionable salary, with the first batches of workers, including uniformed forces and health workers, expected to start receiving it today.

Workers have applauded the move saying they can now easily access loans unlike when the money was being paid as allowances. Also, the money will be pensionable, making life easier for retirees and workers morale will be boosted knowing that they are receiving a salary unlike when the money was paid as allowances which had a risk of being removed at any time.

The Government introduced a US$75 Covid-19 allowance in 2020 and has progressively increased it to US$300, but since it was an allowance, it was exempted from being taxed.

As the Government remains sincere in improving the welfare of workers it has appointed a 15-member team that will negotiate at the National Joint Negotiating Council for a period of two years with effect from January 1, 2024.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo however, said they are expecting to see those allowances being now part of the salary starting today especially for health workers scheduled to be among the first to receive pay.

"This is a welcome development. We are happy with this move which has been taken by the Government as it will make sure there is sustainability and boost the morale as well as confidence of the workers.

"Allowances can be removed anytime, but a salary cannot be removed willy nilly so it means that there is that trust, hope and confidence that move is going to bring to the workers eventually motivating them," he said.

Mr Dongo said allowances were not part of pensionable income hence when this money is moved to be part of the salary it becomes pensionable.

"It means those workers who are being retired from service after serving a long time were getting peanuts when their pensions were being calculated, especially using the local currency.

"Now that the calculation will be done using the forex component it means they are going to get something meaningful that they can take home. It is an advantage."

Mr Dongo said this was a welcome move which really showed that the Government has its people at heart.

"They want to see people having a better living even when they leave public service to go and retire after serving for so long," he said. The greater ease in obtaining loans from banks was an advantage.

"The civil servants can now be able to borrow from the banks in forex and can do some projects which is better than before when it was allowances. It was so difficult for somebody to go and borrow forex," he said.

Mr Dongo, however, pleaded that the Government should avoid heavily taxing salaries because it will disadvantage the civil servants. The new and far wider tax bands, including the zero-rate band, mean that most State employees will pay only very modest amounts in tax.

"If it is going to tax, it means it is going to reduce the amount which will not be good for the workers. We also expect the Government to increase that salary to a meaningful salary which is competitive in the region. We expect the salary to move gradually towards the US$540 which was being given before October 1, 2018," he said.

Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU) president Mrs Cecilia Alexander said the workers remain hopeful for a continued better working relationship.

"We are hoping to meet the Government soon to discuss the unfinished business of 2023 and of course discuss Government offers for 2024," she said.

A civil servant Mr Ngonidzashe Mwaradza applauded the Government for being a listening one.

"It has always been our plea that the allowances be turned into being part of salaries. This is highly applauded. I can now easily borrow using my pay slip unlike in the past where the money was reflecting as allowances which was a bit problematic to financial institutions," he said.

Another worker, Mrs Kudzai Chitabwe also hailed the new package.

"This is a noble gesture from our employer which gives us confidence knowing that I am working for my salary not allowances. After retiring I am also certain that I will get my pension," she said.

In a statement to the Public Service Commission, the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Permanent Secretary Simon Masanga listed the new 15 members that will negotiate with workers on behalf of the Government with the team led by Mr Nobert Machinjike.

Other members include Mr Walter Mpandawana, Clemence Mugura-Gumeni, as well others only identified as Mr L Tagara, Mrs F Makombe, Mr P Takavarasha, Mrs N Masiyanise, Mrs L Mudyiwa, Mr C Vusani, Ms T Makoni, Mr L Ngorima, Ms L Kagurabadza, Mr M Dube and Mrs R Mutonono.

Source - The Herald