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Zimbabwe Strike Continues

Striking Zimbabwean civil servants say the government has not responded to their demands. They have resolved to continue with their strike over pay until the authorities come up with a better wage offer.

Tendai Chikowore, one of the leaders of the protests, said the strikes would continue. She made the announcement at the end of a march by some 500 workers through downtown Harare.

"With effect from 22 February the industrial action will take the form of a sit-in," said Tendai Chikowore. "The sit-in will continue until the 5th of March 2010 after which all public service employees will come for feedback."

The decision to go on strike was reached after the government said it could not meet the workers' demand for a minimum wage of at least $502 per month, a few dollars above the official poverty line. Most of them are currently paid less than $200 a month.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said civil service pay takes up at least 60 percent of revenues, and limited resources make it difficult for the state to increase wages significantly.

Minister of Public Services Eliphas Mukonoweshuro said the government cannot afford to pay even $300 a month because it is broke. The workers have dismissed this.

Again, Tendai Chikowore:

"Zimbabwe is a land of abundant mineral endowment and other natural wealth but not exploited for the benefit of the entire populace," said Chikowore.

The strike leaders also said despite Mukonoweshuro's promise that government would engage the workers in dialogue to resolve the standoff, no talks have been held since they decided to go on strike.

Chikowore warned the workers would take further unspecified action if the government fails to meet the workers demands.

"If government remains adamant, it must prepare itself for a more crippling and economically damaging course of action," she said.

The response to the strike call has been mixed with most workers in government offices reporting for work. Takavafira Zhou of the Progressive Teachers' Union told VOA this is because those workers are being intimidated into reporting for work.