Felex Share Herald Reporter
GOVERNMENT prioritises the welfare and conditions of service for civil servants and will soon start implementing strategies to improve their income in line with the Zanu-PF election manifesto, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Cde Nicholas Goche, has said.Salaries of Government workers have remained low over the past five years as the defunct coalition government failed to address their grievances, insisting that it was bankrupt.
Minister Goche — who has served in the same portfolio before — said Government workers had been neglected for a long time and something needed to be done.
“This is one of our major priorities and the President, at different platforms, has always said that their salaries and conditions of service should be improved because civil servants did not get anything in the last five years despite their dedication to duty.
“What is worrying us is that even those whom they were supposed to negotiate with were not available. We need labour for Government to deliver and to effectively do that, the workforce should be motivated hence the need to improve the conditions of service.”
Civil servants failed to get a meaningful salary increment during the tenure of the inclusive Government, with the then Finance Minister and MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti repeatedly telling them that Government had no money.
The civil servants also failed to engage Government over salary negotiations as another MDC-T Minister, Lucia Matibenga, who superintended the Public Service portfolio, snubbed them and they accused her of being “arrogant” on the few occasions they met.
Minister Goche said he would work closely with Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa to ensure some of the challenges civil servants were facing were addressed as a matter of urgency.
He said views and proposals from civil servants’ representatives would be welcome.
“We are going to work in consultation with the Finance Minister to see what can be done for the workers,” Minister Goche said.
“We also have to consult, get views and proposals from the various civil servants unions and see what we can do for them now depending on what will be in the coffers.
I am coming from the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development, but I am not new in the ministry as I have served in that capacity before and I am here to see what we can do to labour as well as bringing social services to the people.”
Civil servants, who are paid a minimum salary of US$297, need their salaries to be reviewed in line with the poverty datum line.
The PDL is over US$600.
Workers’ unions have welcomed President Mugabe’s appointment of Minister Goche as their minister, saying they had once dealt with him and would not have difficulties in airing their views.
“He is not coming in for the first time and we hope that he will use his experience to ensure that we get a meaningful salary that is above the PDL,” said Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu.
“We believe in dialogue and we are glad the minister has expressed his wish to listen to our proposals. We are looking forward to working with the new Zanu-PF Government as we had suffered for long.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general, Mr Raymond Majongwe, has since hailed President Mugabe for giving Cde Nicholas Goche the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare saying his return was likely to see most of the challenges facing civil servants being solved.
President Mugabe has already indicated that salaries for civil servants and their conditions of service would be improved before the end of the year.
“Government is concerned about the welfare of members of the Public Service and will continue to implement strategies aimed at improving their conditions of service,” he said, in his inauguration speech last month.
“We have promised to address the issue of salaries and conditions of living. We pledge to fulfil this promise this year. Thank you civil servants, I promise better conditions. We do not make promises in vain.”