Civil service unions in Zimbabwe are set to strike today Jan 19 after Public Service Minister, Lucia Matibenga, told media that she had no wish to discuss the matter.
According to a report in The Herald newspaper, representatives of the various civil servants unions had been due to meet with the minister on Tuesday Jan 17 but she had failed to show up despite the leaders of the civil unions waiting at her office for over four hours. The Deputy Public Service Minister, Andrew Langa, however, had a more conciliatory attitude being quoted in the paper as saying:
"This is not a Public Service ministry issue only. The President (Cde Mugabe) has to be consulted, so is the finance ministry and the Public Service Commission. It is only after that, that we will come up with an agreeable and suitable position paper."
News24 reports that the one day strike is to demand a salary increase and an improvement in working conditions. Teachers, doctors and nurses are among those planning on joining the strike, but they have been on strike several times since 2007 with no salary raise. News 24 quotes Tendai Chokowore, spokesperson for the Public Service Association speaking to the AFP news agency on Wednesday Jan 18:
"We are also demanding improved pensions and medical cover and allowances for workers based in rural areas. The strike is initially for one day. After that we will review the strategy depending on the government's response,"CNN International reports that the government of President Robert Mugabe is saying that the payroll for civil servants is already too high with government salaries accounting for more than 60% of the country's budget.
In an article in Zimonline, it says that since the formation of a unity government between the Zanu-PF part y of Robert Mugabe and the MDC headed by Morgan Tsvagirai in 2009, civil service unions had hoped for improvements but as the new government has been completely unable to persuade Western nations to invest in the country, the situation continues to get worse with schools falling into disrepair and health workers heading to other countries, such as the United Kingdom, to earn a decent wage.