Public wage talks in crisis

A dispute is in the offing between government and the civil servants after the government insisted on 4 per cent salary increment instead of the 67 per cent workers are demanding.

The workers are particularly aggrieved that a number of benefits were removed last year on the promise of better wages this year which seem not to materialize.

The workers feel that a government which is capable of spending a lot of money on by-elections, creation of districts and appointment of deputy ministers was able to pay.

They argued that the PF government had shown the sign of capability to pay the 67 per cent being demanded for because in some ministries, President Michael Sata had appointed more than three deputy ministers and more permanent secretaries.

According to the bargaining unions the workers are demanding for 67 per cent salary increment and improved conditions of service in the 2013-2014 proposed collective agreement among other things.

But the PF led government is proposing 4 percent salary increment and a delay in the negotiations until October 2013.

According to a meeting which was held yesterday between Union leaders and officials from the Ministry of Finance, government is proposing a 4 per cent salary increment which has since rejected by the unions because the workers want 67 per cent.

The source who attended the meeting told the Daily Nation that government was not willing to adjust salaries at least for now but could only re-commence the negotiations between September and October 2013.

“They want a wage freeze for the next seven to eight months but this is difficult because the workers representatives are determined to get their demands known and commence the negotiations now. This government is under intense pressure especially that they made so many promises and workers expect nothing other than the 67 percent salary increment and improved conditions of service,” said the source.

The source who was part of the meeting said that the discussions though going on, government seems not to be willing as they raised issues challenging the demands by the workers.

The source said that the main intention behind government’s move to ask unions to extend the 2011-2012 collective agreements was to facilitate for a wage freeze for seven to eight months.

They said that it was worrying that some unions had already given government an extension of one month before the negotiations could start.

The source said that the union negotiating were also looking forward to a socially acceptable and meaningful reward in 2013 that would cater for manifold expectations of employees at all levels for a reasonably good salary, fair working conditions and opportunities for career advancement.

The source said that the workers representatives argued that their demands were within the capacity for a  government to pay and improve the conditions for the workers because the country had recorded a higher and sustained economic growth achieved during the past few years.

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