Civil servants, govt clash over US$ deductions

CIVIL servants are up in arms against the government over United States dollar deductions, saying the move further impoverishes them by wiping out their meagre earnings.

CIVIL servants are up in arms against the government over United States dollar deductions, saying the move further impoverishes them by wiping out their meagre earnings.

Government workers earn salaries both in United States dollars and ZiG.

The workers have been calling on the government to increase their salaries in US$ terms as the least paid worker earns about US$280 and around ZiG 1 500.

A circular dated May 28, 2024 written by Public Service COmmission secretary, Tsitsi Choruma, said deductions of the United States dollar component in line with Statutory Instrument (SI) 169/2021 would be backdated to January.

“01 January 2024. Section 8(b) (4) provides that, 'Any person in Zimbabwe who earns remuneration in a currency other than that of Zimbabwe shall be required to pay his/her contributions in foreign currency and in cases where individuals earn remuneration in a combination of foreign currency and Zimbabwean dollars, he or she shall pay contribution of the same currency ratio,” read part of the circular.

But government workers described the move as "fraudulent".

Yesterday, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) wrote to the PSC challenging the decision to implement US$ deductions.

In the letter, PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said they were alarmed “by such callous unilateralism intended to further impoverish civil servants.”

"The US$ National Social Security Authority deductions must be commensurate with the US$ salary adjustments, and in any case the proposed deductions and backdating are not a product of consultation with stakeholders such as unions representing the civil servants,” Majongwe said in the letter.

 “The US$ Nssa deductions must succeed in meaningful US$ salary adjustments which we feel are long overdue, and the PSC and government must respect its workers and desist from approaches that are tantamount to colonial master and servant relationship."

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said the government did not care about the plight of workers.

“The US$ deduction is going to severely affect workers, the majority who earn depressed salaries,” he said.

“We continue to demand US$1 260 salary for teachers so that they will have enough to cater for the basics even after paying these subscriptions."

Members of the security forces said the government should tax their local currency component instead.

“US$ component, despite being paltry, has been helping us to deal with the current chaotic economy. Taxing the little US$ component will drive us further into poverty,” said a member of the security forces who refused to be named.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association spokesperson Goodwill Taderera accused the government of ambushing civil servants.

“What is critical is that they have to communicate before a deduction is made. We strongly advise that in future our employer should make a communication first so that we can prepare before a deduction is made,” he said.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions vice-president Valentine Chikosi said Zimbabweans were wallowing in poverty.

"Workers are faced with a precarious situation where their salaries are predominantly in ZiG yet their expenses are predominantly in United States dollars,"Chikosi said.

"People need foreign currency to cover rent, transport, fuel, medical expenses and school fees among other statutory obligations.”

“Workers are left with no option but to source the much needed US dollar from the black market risking being arrested."

Chikosi said the ZIG had so far failed to improve the welfare of workers but instead perpetuated poverty and unemployment.

Chikosi said there was urgent need to address the “peanuts” salaries earned by most workers, adding that realignment of salaries would contribute to economic growth through labour-driven growth.

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