THE government has admitted it is technically broke and will not be able to sustain the $540 minimum wage proposed by civil servants unions owing to the declining government revenue as the economy continues to dampen, an official has said.
In an interview with Southern Eye Business on the sidelines of a labour briefing held at a hotel in Bulawayo last Friday, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister Tongai Muzenda said the government was not in a position to pay civil servants a minimum wage of $540 due to the persistent harsh economic condition.
Muzenda said the government was still in negotiations with civil servants’ unions, adding that negotiating wages based on the poverty datum line (PDL) would not be sustainable as the government was cash-strapped with declining revenue and the contracting fiscal space.
“We haven’t started negotiations on the actual amount civil servant salaries will get next year,” Muzenda said.
“Negotiating wages at this point based on PDL is not sustainable as the government has no money and even if civil servants could be paid such an amount it would put pressure on the private sector which is also struggling,” he added.
Workers’ unions representing civil servants have been pushing government to raise public workers’ salaries to a minimum of $540 in line with the PDL.
The new Zanu PF government had promised improving civil servant salaries with critics, however, saying the government had no money to finance such a huge wage bill with the dampening economy evident by the prevalent financial squeeze.
The economy is expected to slow down to 3,4% next year with the depressed industry capacity which plunged to 39%.
Companies are downsizing and retrenching sending thousands on the streets unemployed.
Muzenda said because of the prevalent harsh economic conditions from the period between January to September this year,
1 560 workers have been retrenched compared to 1 632 recorded in the same period the previous year.
“The manufacturing sector is the worst affected as the country continues to rely on imported materials thereby affecting viability of local manufactures,” Muzenda said.
“Despite all these problems faced by employers, workers have expectations. They are expecting their salaries to be reviewed above the PDL of which the labour market cannot afford,” he added.
Muzenda said workers were going for months without pay adding that in 2014, industry and the government must come with permanent solutions to the problems.
“The government is trying to create a conducive environment by improving labour legislation,” Muzenda said.
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