As the legal wrangle between striking civil servants and the government continues unabated at the Industrial Court, Member of Parliament for Tati East constituency, Samson Moyo Guma, has appealed to the workers to go back to work.
He has, in the same vein, appealed to government, in its negotiations with the employees, to stop giving the impression that there is no money.”I appeal to the striking workers to go back to work and work for their country. The country is for all of us and we should not allow emotions to pull back our economy. I urge government not to give an impression that there is no money and the workers are being denied that money when the opposite is true. The workers have a legitimate demand and they are feeling the pain and so is the nation by their withdrawal of labour,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph.
Guma said the solution is for the government to negotiate transparently and dialogue with the unions in good faith adding that it is not proper for government to give the workers suspended promises because such promises can never be said to be an offer.
He said this in reference to government’s stand that it will give the public service a five percent salary increase on condition that the economy had improved in the first half of the year.
“It is a conditional offer. There will never be a point when government says ‘I have enough money to give increases’. It is just a question of priorities and getting our expenditures right and if it means doing that in favour of the employees then let it be,” said Guma.
He said if he was the minister of finance, he would tell the workers that he is unable to review their salaries because of the cash flow situation but definitely that the salaries would be reviewed in September after the review of the first quarter as ┬áthe economy is forecast to have grown by seven percent.
In addition, Guma said he would tell the employees that the increment would be backdated to April.
“I would promise them that the review will have a possibility of backdating to April. I would not confine myself to any figure because that would allow me to start working on reviewing the revenues and expenditure forecasts and focusing on the anticipated big wage bill,” said Guma.
Although he says his strategy would be to give the employees a salary increase, he also proposes a scary scenario ÔÇô that of trimming the civil service and making it more productive and efficient.
In Guma’s view, the embellished civil service is not sustainable in monetary terms as is the case currently.
He said a proper explanation to the unions would ensure they understand that a salary increase does not only entail an increment of the take home pay as it also entails an increased ┬ágovernment contribution towards ┬átheir pensions and medical aid.
Guma added that it is useful that such increases are performance based because enhanced productivity would grow the economy.
“If you do not educate people, you create wrong perceptions.
The country’s expenditure and priority needs should be constructively and plainly explained to the workers. These things should be clearly unpacked so as to eliminate misperceptions that there is money when in fact there is no money. The budget must always be a people’s budget because in that way, the whole nation, including the workers, will understand the budget scenario and its attendant implications,” said Guma.
He said if you tell the workers that there is no money while on the other hand your expenditure on the items such as the military and the DIS is increasing, that has the effect of hardening the feelings of the workers that they are being sidelined in favour of unjustified expenditure.
The public service strike entered its third week yesterday and the unions, who are demanding a 16 percent salary increase, have a threatened a ‘go slow’ upon resumption of duty.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Court is today expected to deliver judgment on the legality and effectiveness of last week’s judgment that declared certain cadres in the public service as essential services and thus their participation in the strike illegal.