In an interview with News Diggers! union president Davies Chiyobe said that the public service agreed to the minimum increment even though it was insignificant, so that workers could walk away with a consolation.
“We had no choice but to agree because if we entered into a dispute, we would have lost everything. If our workers remember what happened in 2014 after we entered into a dispute with government we ended up losing everything. If we refused the offer and went to court, the court takes a minimum of over four to five years to pass a ruling which will still disadvantage the workers,” Chiyobe said.
“I know our members will complain but to the best of our knowledge we made the move in the best interest of the workforce. We suspected that government came into this meeting with the insinuation that we will refuse the offer and enter into a dispute which might take years to resolve, so that we lose out.”
He complained that with the increased electricity tariff and high cost of living, the salary increase would be insignificant, but hoped that it would make a difference.
“The negotiations were not easy in fact this was the most difficult engagement with government as we represented the needs of our workers especially now that certain subsidies on essentials such as electricity and fuel have been removed,” Chiyobe said.
“We had to explain to government how the lives of our workers had became impossible. Of course government started with a very low percentage offer which we had to push and almost reached a stalemet until government went back to engage in further consultations. At that time we were only between six and eight per cent so we gave them chance to consultant and when they came back we agreed on an increment of between 7. 44 and 9. 62 respectively.
He explained that the government’s argument was that the country needed to maintain a minimum spending level in order to meet the IMF conditions for a bail out package.
“We were looking at the fact that since 2015 there has being a wage freeze, otherwise we as a labour movement have nothing to write home about this increment. But we also had to look at our country’s economic situation which is not doing well and as such we had to be patriotic and help government reach its branch mark as required by the International Monetary Fund, ” Chiyobe said.
And the opposition FDD the salary increment that government awarded civil servants was too insignificant to make any meaningful impact in their lives.
“In monetary terms, the 7 per cent to 9 per cent increment translates into K221 and K305 for the lowest and highest brackets respectively. With the current harsh economic conditions, owing to the high cost of living, this increment will have little to no impact at all,” Forum for Democracy and Development spokesperson Antonio Mwanza stated.
“Generally the salaries and conditions of service for our civil servants are quite pathetic to say the least. And with the wage freeze that our workers have endured in the last two years, this increment will simply worsen the already miserable standards of living for most of our workers and their families.”
He said the low salaries were demotivating.
“It is such unfavourable salaries and working conditions that dampens the morale and spirit of our workers resulting into lower productivity levels. It’s a pity that in this country only politicians and thieves are enjoying at the expense of the hardworking individuals. This must change,” stated Mwanza.
“Today, most civil servants can be classified as the working poor because their salaries cannot even meet their basic needs such as transport, decent housing, food and groceries. Our workers have becoming slaves to Kaloba. Most of our workers cannot buy cash even simple things such as a Dakanya, commonly known as a duvet. They rely on pay slow just to meet their basic needs. We must invest in our human resource and reward those that work hard for the betterment of this great country.”