News / Africa

Zimbabwe's Civil Service Workers Go On Strike

Zimbabwe's civil servants said Friday they are going on strike for better wages. This strike is a serious blow to the year-old unity government which says it has no money to increase their wages.

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Major unions representing teachers, health workers, state college and university lecturers as well as office workers, held a rally of more than 2,000 in central Harare, saying they would not return to work until the government addressed their demands.

Civil servants have been paid between $150-240 a month since the unity government came to power a year ago. The ministers in the unity government are not paid much more.  The government has offered a 10 percent wage hike, but the workers rejected it.

The strike comes amid efforts to revive key sectors that nearly collapsed at the height of Zimbabwe's crisis in 2008 when public schools and hospitals ground to a halt.

Dr. Amos Chizhande, president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, said the government has done nothing to improve working conditions for his sector.

"No matter how hard we try as an association to push for the improvement of the conditions of the health workers we are being ignored," said Chizhande.

Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, has been one of the most prominent critics of ZANU-PF rule, having been detained by the party many times in the past decade.

Majongwe believes Zimbabwe does have the resources to boost teachers' pay and references the lucrative diamonds mines in eastern Zimbabwe
 
"I think the position that has been taken represents the real feeling of the workers. We are going on strike demanding that money that we know is in Zimbabwe," said Majongwe.  "We cannot be told there is no money when we have 300, 000 carats of diamonds sitting in some office. As long as those diamonds be sold and the money paid to civil servants then we will go back to work tomorrow," he said.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who was not available for comment, has said civil service pay takes up at least 60 percent of the country's revenues, and limited resources make it difficult for the state to increase wages significantly.

In the first eight months of the unity government, only $2 million was contributed for educating three million students in Zimbabwe.

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