HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s public sector workers demanded to be paid U.S. dollar-indexed salaries on Wednesday to cushion them against soaring inflation, and will decide this week whether to strike.
Public hospital doctors have been on strike for more than a month to press President Emmerson Mnangagwa for higher pay. If more workers take action it would raise pressure on a government widely criticised for its handling of the economy.
Hopes that this would quickly rebound under Mnangagwa, who took over after the late Robert Mugabe was deposed in a coup in November 2017, have faded fast, as citizens grapple with inflation that has eroded earnings and savings.
Zimbabweans have also been facing rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, medicines and fuel that have revived memories of the 2008 hyperinflation under Mugabe.
The Apex Council, which groups 14 public sector unions representing 230,000 workers – excluding the health and security sectors – said the government had failed to convene meetings to discuss workers’ pay after several requests from unions.
Unions want the monthly salary of the lowest paid employee pegged at $475 (7,258 Zimbabwe dollars), which workers were earning in October 2018, before the government re-introduced the Zimbabwe dollar, ending a decade of dollarisation in June.
The local currency has since plummeted, fuelling price hikes and triple-digit annual inflation, but salaries have lagged.
“There is no better way than looking at what we were earning on 1 October 2018 and that being indexed to the prevailing interbank (exchange) rate. Anything other than that will not adequately address the needs by civil servants,” George Mushipe, Apex Council treasurer told reporters.
The lowest paid worker earns 1,020 Zimbabwe dollars a month, barely enough to buy two bags of fertiliser.
Vincent Hungwe, chairman of the Civil Service Commission that employs government workers, declined immediate comment.
Apex Council co-chairperson Thomas Muzondo said the public sector unions would consult their members on what action to take and would meet again on Friday to decide the next step.