Public workers reject latest wage offer after protests

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By Agencies

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s public workers have rejected a second offer to raise their salaries and demanded to be paid in dollars, days after at least three people died in violent anti-government protests.

Hundreds of locals were detained on public order charges on Friday, as the United Nations urged an end to a security crackdown and an internet blackout.

Zimbabweans, who have seen their purchasing power eroded by soaring inflation despite adopting the dollar in 2009, say President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not delivered on pre-election pledges to kick-start growth after the exit of Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa has promised a clean break from the 37-year era of Mugabe, who was forced out in a de facto coup in November 2017 but the economy is afflicted by a severe shortage of dollars which has led to shortages of fuel and medicines.

The government has offered to pay 305,000 civil servants, including the security forces, $300 million for the period between April and December, a monthly average rise of $109 each.

But workers rejected this latest offer, the second in two weeks at a meeting on Friday, Thomas Muzondo, deputy chairman of the Apex Council, a grouping of all civil service unions, said, adding that a third round of talks was scheduled for next week.

“We insisted on US dollar salaries but the government totally rejected this, saying they do not manufacture dollars. We are now consulting our membership but we told the government that their offer is nowhere near our expectations,” he said.

Civil servants, who gave Mnangagwa’s government a 14-day notice to strike on January 8, want to be paid in dollars or have the monthly salary of the lowest paid worker increased from $414 to $1,700, Muzondo said.

Supplies of dollars have dried up and Zimbabweans have seen their deposits in the electronic banking system losing value, raising fears that the southern African nation might be heading for its second financial collapse in a decade.