THE interim US$75 Covid-19 relief allowance for civil servants, which was announced by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development as part of a raft of measures to cushion workers against wanton price increases, does not shut the door on further negotiations between the Government and its workers, a top official has said.
This comes as the economy has been going through turbulent times, characterised by unwarranted price increases, despite the fact that the Government has put in place interventions to spur economic growth and bring stability.
Workers have thus taken the worst battering from the effects of the unjustified price increases that have been attributed to the country’s detractors, elite opportunists and malcontents who are pushing a nefarious agenda to cause regime change by trying to stir public anger against the Government.
As such the Secretary for the Public, Defence, Police and Prisons and Recreational Service Commissions Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe said yesterday the Government introduced the US$75 allowance for civil servants and US$35 for pensioners as a provisional measure to ease the anguish on its employees who are confronted with exorbitant prices in shops.
“The rationale of that Covid-19 allowance is the anguish that has been reported by civil servants; it is the challenge that people are facing at the point of sale. So supporting livelihoods at the point of sale is the purpose of that cushion of US$75. However, the US$75 is not going to be in my hand, it is going to be in a nostro account. It will be issued with a card that one can swipe at the point of sale,” said Ambassador Wutawunashe.
This will be done to ensure that the money remained in the formal system and does not leak onto the black market.
Ambassador Wutawunashe said the Government, through relevant authorities, is in discussion with banks to ensure that the opening of nostro accounts that requires a deposit of between US$10 and US$20 does not chew into the cushioning allowance.
“Every civil servant is requested to open a nostro account and arrangements will be made, and I am sure proper communication will be made to the banks to facilitate opening of the nostro accounts. We are going to workout the details with all stakeholders to ensure that there is soft landing to ensure the intention of the allowance is not lost because it is a cushion, it is a relief measure that is supposed to address the livelihood requirements of civil servants and their families,” said Ambassador Wutawunashe.
Allying fears of some sceptics, including civil servants in the Apex Council, Ambassador Wutawunashe said the Government decided to swiftly intervene to bring relief to its workers who were suffering from constant price hikes.
“I am not sure that when the Government recognises a problem that has to be addressed immediately, that impacts on livelihoods, that the Government’s move to bring relief should be subject to debate and criticism. I am not so sure that a beneficiary of relief will be distressed that they are getting relief. What the Government has done, does not in any manner shape or form or cancel the engagements that Government will definitely have with the Apex Council.
“That is why the US$75 measure is clearly an interim measure that is tied to the Covid-19 challenge right now. It does not in any way make a statement about the National Joint Negotiating Council, which is still the valid forum for engagement between Government and representatives of workers. There is no government that would say just because there is a mechanism that can be activated tomorrow, the pain of today cannot be addressed,” he said.
Apart from rolling out the Covid-19 cushion allowance, that will be reviewed in three months’ time, the Government also announced a 50 percent salary hike for its workers and also pledged to introduce non-monetary benefits that will be announced in due course.
With the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) announcing that from Tuesday next week auctions of foreign currency will be used to set the exchange rate — the volatile black market rate that has been used by some shops to benchmark their prices is likely to be reined in, meaning the cushion allowances will come with real value for the Government employees.