Civil Servants Reject Bonus Freeze

CIVIL servants yesterday rejected the government’s decision to suspend annual bonuses for this year and 2016, saying their employer unilaterally made the decision.

They said they were, in fact seeking a salary hike, despite the government’s announcement. The government workers said they met their employer on Friday and the bonus issue was not raised.

Richard Gundane, president of the Apex Council- the umbrella body representing all civil servants – said civil servants were disappointed that the government chose to drop the bonus suspension bombshell via the Press.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Monday announced that the government would not pay civil servants annual bonuses this and next year as a way of creating fiscal space to stimulate full economic recovery.

But Gundane said they presented a position paper to the government, demanding a salary increment that is in line with the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) pegged at $505, during a National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting at Friday’s meeting.

The lowest paid civil servant gets $375 inclusive of transport and housing allowances.

“On Friday we discussed the issue of salary increments for civil servants during a NJNC meeting. We made it clear to the government representatives that we were still expecting a salary increment, which is commensurate to the PDL.

“The agreement was that the last increment amounted to three quarters of the PDL and according to the 2014 national budget the government was to award its workers an increment to that effect but it failed,” said Gundane.

He added that the government requested a position paper from civil servants, which they have submitted.

He said government workers would not accept scrapping of bonuses.

“We will not accept this decision because nobody has formally told us about it. It’s quite shocking. It came as a bombshell that has instantly dampened every civil servant’s spirits.

“This unfortunately comes at a time when civil servants are still trying to come to terms with drastic rental increments. We expect such developments to be formally communicated to us instead of being told through the media,” said Gundane.

Public Service Association (PSA) president Cecilia Alexander echoed the same sentiments, saying they would not react to media reports.

“As unions we will not react to media reports. As far as we’re concerned nothing has changed because nothing has been brought to our table. We will look forward to our bonuses until the government goes through the normal channels to announce its decisions.

“We’ve a minister who is responsible for the welfare of the government workers and we also have the Public Service Commission. If this is official then the government knows how to inform us, not through the media,” said Alexander.

She said she was shocked by the media reports, considering that there was a NJNC meeting last Friday.

“The government isn’t acting in good faith. All along we thought we were moving together although nothing tangible had been produced.

“During last week’s meeting we agreed that the issue of salary increments was still outstanding. A position paper was submitted and we hope for positive results,” said Alexander.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general, Raymond Majongwe said it was not fair for the government to unilaterally make a decision without consulting the workers.

“We’re wondering if this is true because we weren’t officially told. We’re all hearing it through the media. If it’s true then the government is setting a bad example for the rest of the employers in the country.

“This comes as terrible news to the government workers because all along they only had one month in the whole year to look forward to.

“The bonus payments had an important role to play in cushioning the workers to pay fees, buy clothes and even better food for their children,” said Majongwe.

He added that the beginning of 2016 would be a disaster for the workers because they would be having no money.

The government struggled to pay bonuses last year and had to stagger them, with some civil servants getting their 13th cheques this year, while others are yet to be paid.