TALKS with the government Wednesday failed to end a strike by civil servants that has shut down many of the nation's schools as workers seek a doubling of basic salaries.
Unions had suspended the strike Wednesday to allow the talks to proceed, but said their action would continue for the rest of the week after negotiations failed to reach a settlement.
Tendai Chikowore, spokeswoman for the umbrella union Apex Council, said workers rejected the government's "ambiguous offer" to spend $240 million on its payroll, saying a breakdown of the figure showed it to be far lower than their demands.
"In light of this development, we are left with no option but to return to the trenches until Friday, January 27," the unions said in a statement read by Chikowore.
Chikowore said negotiations with the government would resume on Tuesday.
Unions want across-the-board pay rises, including a raise from $200 to $538 a month for the lowest-paid government workers, medical insurance and an allowance for workers based in rural areas.
The strike got off to a slow start Monday but on the second day, public schools in the capital were largely deserted.
Government departments have continued to work as usual, with unions accusing bosses of intimidating their employees to keep them from the joining the strike.
Civil servants, particularly teachers, nurses and doctors, have been striking on and off for better salaries since 2007.
The situation came to a head in 2008, when staff shortages forced state hospitals to close some units and teacher strikes left only 50 days of classes in the whole year.
Zimbabwe's economy has begun recovering after a decade-long downturn, following a power-sharing agreement by long-time rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the wake of failed 2008 polls.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti says about one-third of the 230,000 workers on the government payroll don't actually exist, meaning corrupt employees are siphoning off salaries.
Biti, a Tsvangirai ally, has insisted the cash-strapped government cannot afford to pay higher salaries.
Mugabe has accused the minister of deliberately sabotaging the government by refusing the increases.