Judicial and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (JAWUZ) president Peter Mwale says government must increase salaries for civil servants across the country, arguing that a pay rise for the President and other top government officials is an indication that the treasury has enough money to improve workers conditions.

In an interview with News Diggers, Mwale charged that the upward adjustment of President Edgar Lungu’s monthly salary and allowances was also a demonstration that salary increments were an exception to the imposed austerity measures.

“If you look at the people who have given themselves salary increments, they are comfortable and I don’t even understand why they can increase their salaries to those levels when civil servants don’t get enough money. And I know, I am very sure that they are even planning to impose a wage freeze on civil servants. But we are saying that if themselves are able to award themselves very good and hefty salary increments then impose a wage freeze on majority civil servants, that is not fair, it is a worst evil ever in the history of our country. There is no way that poor civil servants can be told to tighten their belts in the name of austerity measures and that government is unable to increase salaries. I want to see how much civil servants are going to be given as salary increment. Believe you me, if we are not going to be given a very good living wage as civil servants then definitely there will be a problem, we are not going to accept it,” Mwale warned.

“Government has demonstrated that it has got money. How have they demonstrated that they have got money? First of all, they have awarded themselves very good salaries, and they have also procured very expensive vehicles for themselves and they get very good allowances. But when it comes to civil servants, you will see… they are going to tell us that ‘no we don’t have money to give civil servants’. I know that right now, as public servants and unions in public service we are preparing for negotiations and we are aware, we have information that they may not give us any increments for 2019. that’s not right! That’s not fair! If themselves can sit and award themselves that kind of increment, what will be difficult for them also to do the same for the lower civil servants on the ground who are working and suffering? Civil servants who have been subjected to many taxes.”

Mwale said it was unfair for government to have come up with austerity measures targeting only the civil servants.

“We are demanding that let justice be seen to be done by giving a living wage to the civil servants on the ground. We are not going to accept anything in the name of austerity measures. As I said and I will still insist that these austerity measures are meant to be used to disadvantage majority civil servants and you have seen. They have awarded themselves salaries and backdated and now today they can tell us that there are austerity measures and that government has got no money. Really we want to see a very good portion of money going to the civil servants salary. Look, our housing allowances are very low. Our transport allowances are very low, our salaries are very low, coupled with the high cost of living. All these things, how do they expect the civil servants to survive? How do they expect the civil servants to not be corrupt? We are really suffering, it’s not right! It’s not fair,” Mwale insisted

“The people in government should find it in their hearts the way they are giving themselves salary increments, they should also do the same to us. In fact to me, if they were very prudent and very sincere, they should just announce that they have also given civil servants a salary increment of maybe about K5000 across the board. That would even be better than civil servants going to negotiate, then using the negotiations to cheat us and delay the negotiations. Themselves do they sit to negotiate? No, they just thought and awarded themselves that increment but us they want us to go and sit with them before they can increase our salaries.”

Meanwhile, Mwale wondered what the emergency was to increase the President’s salary under austerity measures.

“And someone would ask really what was the emergency in increasing the President’s salary? Because like I said these are people who are very comfortable, even if they don’t have any salary they have got very good conditions that fever them in this economy. So do they need an increment? No! But civil servants deserve the increment because they are workers and they are working and they deserve the increment more than those on top in the government because those people can go without salaries even for two or three years and there can be no difference,” said Mwale.