HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean public sector workers will hold a demonstration on Monday calling on the government to pay bonuses for 2016, the civil service union said, setting them on a collision course with President Robert Mugabe’s cash strapped administration.
Without balance of payment support from foreign lenders, the southern African nation is spending more than 90 percent of the national budget on salaries, leaving no money for infrastructure or bonuses that were due by December.
Last July, doctors joined nurses, teachers and other civil servants in a national shutdown over unpaid wages, which coincided with anti-government protests called by social media groups over a deteriorating economy.
The Apex Council, which represents all civil service unions, issued a notice of the strike to the government. It accused the government of trying to undermine unions by directly engaging workers in a survey to determine whether public employees could opt for residential land in lieu of the bonuses.
Public sector unions last month rejected the land proposal.
The government then issued forms to every civil servant asking whether they preferred residential land instead of cash bonuses, angering the unions.
“Bonuses are part of our conditions of service so we can’t mix that with land. The government is being provocative and disrespectful by engaging workers directly,” Apex Council president Cecilia Alexander said.
Alexander said next Monday’s demonstration “will show that we have a constituency that we represent.”
Public Service and Labour Minister Prisca Mupfumira defended the survey, saying it would determine how the government should proceed on the issue of bonuses.
“We will continue to dialogue with them but we do not tolerate threats,” Mupfumira said.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Janet Lawrence)