THE Bulawayo City Council is in a catch 22 situation over a government directive for it to hike workers’ salaries at a time when the cash-strapped local authority plans to retrench, as the wage bill is unsustainable.
Acting town clerk Sikhangele Zhou said the directive was confusing, coming at time when the government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) are talking of a need for a salary freeze.
Zhou said once implemented 90% of revenue generated will be channelled towards salaries, leaving a mere 10% towards service delivery since Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo directed local authorities to adhere to a 30:70 ratio of salaries and service delivery.
Addressing a breakfast business meeting last Tuesday, Zhou said contradictory policy statements by the government were baffling.
She said according to a government circular, the lowest paid worker should be paid salaries that correspond to the current poverty datum line (PDL), which is estimated at $504.
The PDL figures are, however, disputed by RBZ, which indicates that it stands at about $200.
“We received a circular from the government to raise salaries of workers to be in line with the poverty datum line, that is $504.
“But at the same time the government is talking about a salary freeze or devaluation,” she said without indicating when the circular was issued.
“Council is working on a 40: 60 ratio, which means 40% of revenue raised is channelled towards salaries and 60% goes towards service delivery.
“If we increase the salaries of about 2 000 workers, we will have a 90:10 ratio.
“This means 90% will go towards salaries while 10% will go towards service delivery.”
Zhou said council was left wondering at which policy pronouncement should be acted on.
“Even on the PDL itself, we have different interpretations and figures,” she said.
“The Labour ministry pegs the PDL is at $504, the RBZ says $200 then we have the Finance ministry querying all these figures.
“However, all these different figures are thrown at us.
“It is difficult for us at the lower levels to know which policy is in use.”
The local authority is set for a major shake-up, as it seeks consultants to carry out a job evaluation and rationalisation exercise that may lead to retrenchments.
In 2012, council passed a resolution to carry out a manpower skills audit aimed at restructuring its workforce “into a lean machine”.
However, the exercise was abandoned.