Government must prioritise paying its debt in unpaid allowances owed to public sector workers in the forthcoming 2020 budget, says Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ) president Davies Chiyobe.

In an interview, Chiyobe said some public sector workers still had not been paid their leave benefits and settling-in allowances dating back to 2009.

“There is a huge debt, which debt which is owed (to) our members; some of it reaching as far back as 2009, 2010. This is in terms of leave and travel benefits, settling in allowance and many other allow allowances some of them you will find that they would have been promoted and they would not have been paid those acting allowances for promotion as well as terminal benefits,” Chiyobe explained.

“If you look at that bill, it is a very huge bill! So, seriously, I have just come from North-Western Province where members are asking to say ‘when are we going to be paid settling-in allowances? We have worked for six years, we have worked for five years, we have not paid settling in allowance’.”

He hoped that the matter would be sorted out before the collective agreement came to an end next year.

“So, we expect that this time, most especially that our collective agreement is ending in June, 2020, meaning they will be no negotiations for 2020, it will skip over to 2021. The negotiations for 2020 will commence somewhere around June, meaning there will be no payments unless arrears are paid for 2020. So, to cushion the public service as we start the 2020 budget, is simply to address these serious concerns that are on the ground. For sure, these are grappling and workers are complaining so we expect in this budget to address the internal debt for the workers so that they can get their money otherwise it would have lost value,” he added.

And Chiyobe also called for more funding to quasi-government institutions who face difficulties in paying off staff.

“There are institutions, which are quasi-government institutions, like Zambia Agency for Persons With Disabilities (ZAPD); Nutrition Commission; National Housing Authority (NHA) at one time, even the ZABS (Zambia Bureau of Standards) was involved were there are (were) not getting grants, and sometimes ZAPD have gone without salaries for three months! Now, if you look around, this money is supposed to be budgeted for by the line Ministry, and when it comes to payment of salaries, this money should be released. But the challenges we have had there has been no funding to these Ministries,” complained Chiyobe.

“And on the ground, you may realize that work has almost collapsed because of non-funding. Public workers, especially those field workers just report, sit there because they can’t go out and work. So, we expect whatever is going to be budgeted for this time for the 2020 budget should be released to these departments and Ministries so that service can be rendered to the public. Otherwise, as I speak now after the tour of the North-Western Province on the ground, there is no work that is happening in other Ministries, even water has been closed, electricity has been closed! So, we expect proper funding for our workers to deliver (services). Also, the unfreezing of the frozen positions; the public service is working at a very limited capacity in the sense that some of the positions have been frozen for some time and these positions are critical.”