CIVIL servants have resolved to embark on a full-scale strike and will meet in Harare today to map out the modalities. This comes after Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week rebuked them for demonstrating against poor salaries and working conditions.
Today’s meeting is also expected to end internal squabbles that have hit civil servants unions over the appointment of a new Apex Council chairperson.
The civil servants’ unions yesterday said they will start the strike at the beginning of the next school term.
Schools close on Thursday and the unions’ leaders said they will take advantage of the holidays to start mobilising their members.
Teachers make up the bulk of the civil servants.
The Apex Council brings together the Public Service Association, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe.
Zimta chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said at today’s meeting they will strategise on how to pressure Government into acceding to their demands.
“Tomorrow (today) is a day for strategising. We are going to mobilise our people such that we open schools geared up for the strike,” he said.
“We are reviewing the demonstration we undertook last week, especially after being chided by Minister Biti. We are not a political party, but people fighting for bread and butter issues through his ministry and he should not rebuke us the way he did.”
Public Service Association president Mrs Cecilia Alexander said today’s meeting will define the pending strike.
“We are going to chat the way forward and from there we will start our consultations on the strike,” she said.
The Government workers are demanding an all-inclusive salary of US$564 for the least paid worker up from US$296.
They also want 15 percent of the basic salary as rural allowance for those working in outlying areas.
Commenting on the Apex Council chairmanship, Mr Ndlovu said: “Our association is going to appreciate anyone selected openly. No one should use external territorial muscle in determining the transfer of power.
“We are comfortable with anyone from any union chosen democratically.”
The terms for Apex Council chairperson Mrs Tendai Chikowore and PSA’s Mrs Alexander expired this year. The chairmanship should now go to PSA as the appointment is on a rotational basis.
Mrs Alexander was the Apex Council secretary. PSA has nominated Mrs Alexander for the post, a development other unions described as “recycling old product”.
The new leadership will serve for two years.
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo said he hoped PSA would come up with a new candidate at the meeting today.
“Without that condition, the meeting will not proceed. We want to have the names to forward to the Minister of Public Service,” he said.
“Vital at our meeting would be the issue of salaries. We are going back to the drawing board and after that we are likely to start mobilising.”
Mrs Alexander said she should become the next Apex Council chairperson.
“As for the leadership, our constitution stipulates that the PSA president, who is me, should represent the association at all negotiating forum and unions should not have a say in our operations,” she said.
“We have not violated any Apex Council provisions and we are going to stand by our stance.”
College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe secretary for administration Mr Jinggy Makarudze said Mrs Alexander had been in the Apex Council for the past eight years and should pave way for others.
“She is part of the outgoing executive and we need someone new,” he said.
“We are not worried about PSA taking over the chairmanship, but recycling an individual is unacceptable.”
Minister Biti last week snubbed civil servants and denied them access to his offices to hand over a petition outlining their grievances.
The workers managed to handover the petition to Parliament.
The civil servants have been agitating for salaries that are in line with the poverty datum line since the formation of the inclusive Government three years ago.
Minister Biti has repeatedly told them that Treasury is operating on a “shoe-string budget”.