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COMMENT: Civil servants must engage their employer over forex salaries - Chronicle

The Chronicle

GOVERNMENT this year paid its workers their bonuses in foreign currency in order to cushion them from inflation. The civil servants were paid in forex up to a maximum of US$700 while pensioners were paid US$100.

Government said the decision to pay bonuses in forex was a response to developments in the market and the need to cushion its workers from the adverse effects of fluctuations in exchange rates. It however, said the payment of the 13th cheque in forex was a once off gesture from the President Cde Mnangagwa.

The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) had at the beginning of November appealed to Government to pay teachers their bonuses in foreign currency to cushion them from inflation. The Government responded to the appeal by paying all civil servants and its pensioners bonuses in foreign currency.

This was another demonstration by Government that it is sensitive to the plight of its workers much to the chagrin of the country’s detractors who are always inciting civil servants to fight Government.

The improvement of the civil servants’ working conditions is an ongoing exercise and as we have said before, Government and its workers should constantly engage as opposed to being confrontational.

Last week civil servants said they were lobbying Government to pay them salaries in forex. Apex council president Mrs Cecelia Alexander said the payment of bonuses in forex was a confirmation that Government has the capacity to pay salaries in hard currency.

She said workers appreciated that in the past Government did not have the capacity to pay salaries in forex due to other obligations. Finance and Economic Development Minister said early this month that Government will not pay salaries in forex.

The civil servants, we want to believe, appreciate the impact of disruptions to economic activities following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fact that Government paid them bonuses in forex does not mean it has the capacity to pay salaries in forex.

We are not saying civil servants should not demand better salaries but they should consider their employer’s capacity to pay those salaries.

We have already stated the need for the civil servants to engage their employer and we hope during the engagements Government will provide forex revenue figures and expenditure so that there is an appreciation regarding its capacity to pay salaries in forex.

Many companies failed to pay bonuses in forex and Government should be commended for sacrificing the limited forex revenue to cushion its workers.

It is unfortunate that the civil servants are now misinterpreting this once-off gesture as a confirmation of Government’s capacity to pay salaries in forex.