Workers demand action as inflation spirals out of control
- Public sector workers down tools as inflation bites
- Workers declare ‘incapacitation’ amid soaring inflation
- Price hikes push public sector workers to the edge
The Zimbabwean government is facing a mounting crisis as thousands of public sector workers, including tax collectors and nurses, have declared ‘incapacitation’ and threatened to stop reporting for work unless their salaries and conditions of service are improved.
The workers say they can no longer afford basic commodities and transport costs as the country grapples with an economic meltdown marked by high inflation and a weakening local currency.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), the month-on-month inflation rate surged to 15.7% in May 2023, up from 2.4% in April 2023, while the annual inflation rate rose to 86.5%, down from 75.2% in the previous month.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) workers yesterday wrote to their commissioner-general Regina Chinamasa, informing her that they were now incapacitated to afford basic human needs like shelter, food and transport.
“Failure to meet these basic human needs incapacitates a person from fully engaging in activities that do not fully support their endeavours to lead a decent life,” the Zimbabwe Revenue and Allied Workers Trade Union (ZIMRATU) said in the letter.
The ZIMRA workers joined the nurses in public hospitals and clinics, who on Thursday gave the government a 14-day ultimatum to increase their salaries and address their grievances.
The nurses said they were earning less than US$100 per month, which was not enough to cover their expenses and sustain their families.
The umbrella body of labour unions representing public sector workers, the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU), also wrote to the Public Service minister Paul Mavima on Thursday, declaring incapacitation and demanding an urgent meeting to negotiate their wages and conditions of service.
The ZCPSTU said the workers were suffering from the effects of a massive price wave and exchange rate movements, which had eroded their incomes and purchasing power.
“In this regard, the Confederation wishes to inform your office that following an upsurge in the cost of living, and the reported sabotage by business which is increasing prices willy nilly, your workers have become incapacitated,” ZCPSTU secretary general David Dzatsunga said in the letter.
Mavima told NewsDay that the government was also concerned by the current hikes of basic commodities, and that it was working on finding a solution to alleviate the suffering of the people.
“Government is also concerned by the current hikes of basic commodities, and we need as quickly as possible to have a government position on what we can do to alleviate the suffering of the people. Processes are already underway to determine our position as government. But the workers are not on strike,” he said.
However, the workers’ representatives said they were not satisfied with the government’s response and vowed to continue with their industrial action until their demands were met.
They also expressed fears that some of the ex-convicts who were released last week under a presidential amnesty could pose a threat to their safety and security.
The amnesty, which saw the release of rapists who are over 65 years and had served two-thirds of their prison terms, has sparked outrage and condemnation from survivors, activists and legal experts who say it is a grave injustice and a violation of human rights.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said the situation in the country required urgent intervention by the authorities.
“Workers are finding it very difficult to sustain themselves following the events of the past two weeks where there was a sudden hike of prices by the retailers,” ZCTU secretary general Japhet Moyo said.
“The level of increase of prices is ridiculous if we look at the workers’ earnings. Incomes have been wiped out. Unfortunately, we have not heard from the authorities. We do not know what they are doing. There is so much uncertainty. We are not sure whether we will have workers going to work this coming week if there is no action because things are not looking good.”
The government pays its workers a monthly allowance of US$250 and a Zimdollar component of around $250 000.