ZIMBABWE – Government yesterday paid teachers their December salaries, quashing private media reports that it was in the red and would not meet its salary obligations.
Acting Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Dr Lazarus Dokora, assured civil servants yet to receive their salaries that while Government faced numerous obligations, salaries were statutory and the employer would not renege on paying them.
Some members of the uniformed forces got their salaries before Christmas Day and Government deferred the pay date for teachers from Monday to yesterday.
The rest of the civil service, which was supposed to be paid yesterday, had their pay date moved to next Tuesday.
Said Minister Dokora: “Government has promised and it will fulfil that. Yes, there are challenges here and there but the workers should know that resource constraints does not mean the promise has been forgotten.
“I am happy this day has come to pass (teachers being paid) and we continue to look forward to other commitments that have been made. I want to encourage workers to keep their calm and allow Government to proceed to fulfil its part.”
Some civil servants, mainly health workers, had threatened to go on strike beginning Friday, albeit without following the dictates of the Civil Service Commission.
According to Section 16:04 of the Public Service Act and Public Service Regulations, negotiators first engage each other and if no solution is found they can call an independent arbitrator.
If the arbitrator’s decision is disputed by the employees, they can proceed to give a 14-day strike notice.
Teachers yesterday each had between $35 and $45 deducted as pension contribution, an amount teachers’ representatives said was “too much.”
As part of the of the raft of measures being introduced to rationalise the civil service, Government recently announced that effective December 1, pension contributions would be resuscitated with each civil servant contributing 7,5 percent every month.
Civil servants have not been paying pension since 2009 when everyone was getting a flat $100 allowance.
However, despite the non-contribution by members, Government continued paying out full pension benefits to members after termination of employment.
The move eventually became unsustainable and a huge backlog of commutations accumulated.
In an earlier interview, the substantive Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira, said Government needed to fund pensions through current contributions.
“We should appreciate that we all need to retire and get paid from own and employer contributions upon retirement,” she said.
“The workers were not contributing and this is an anomaly. We carried out a civil service audit which recommended these measures. We will discuss and consult stakeholders on modalities of setting up of the Civil Service Pension Fund. It’s a safety net and social protection for retirees.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu, said Government was simply dictating these measures to them.
“All along the belief was that they have not been deducting the pension because they were considering that the levels of income were low,” he said.
“But this coming on the eve of the implementation of a new budget means that methodically Government has killed social dialogue by not convening any meeting. An absence of social dialogue creates conflict.”
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe chief executive, Mr Manuel Nyawo, said while they were happy that teachers had finally received their salaries, he hoped the January 6 meeting with Government negotiators would clear the air on the pension contributions.
“It is sad that at a time we expect more benefits from Government, we get more deductions. Government should reconsider its position and we hope our next meeting would iron out these issues,” he said.
Public Service Association president Mrs Cecelia Alexander, whose constituency is yet to get paid, said Government should use the proper channels to communicate with them.
“What is sad is that we are learning about everything through the newspaper,” she said.
“They introduced bus fare and without salaries where will that money come from to report for duty. As for the pension deductions, this is not the conducive time to do so because we have not received any salary increase. They should come to the table and we map the way forward together rather than ambushing us.”
The rationalisation exercise by Government is expected to serve about $400 million annually.
All vacant posts have been abolished, bus fare for civil servants has been re-introduced, under-used staff is being redeployed, funding of bridging courses has been scrapped while all members who were abusing various types of leave, tampering with pay sheets and attendance registers have been charged.
Student teachers and trainees’ allowances have been reduced from $329 to $157 while salaries paid to teachers at trust and private schools by Government have been terminated.