Criminals and tax evaders should not be allowed to foment insurrection and national discord over the public service wage freeze.
Our national “cesspool” detractors have now latched on the public sector wage freeze to perpetuate their nefarious scheme. They have lost power and influence in the Patriotic Front and now want to influence Unions to retain their control on national affairs. This should not be allowed because there is too much at stake.
Those with logs in their eyes will always seek to destroy those with specks for the purpose of satisfying their sick, sociopathic, narcissistic and egoistic impulses.
The truth is that our public service wages system is in complete chaos and disarray with some of the lowly graded officers such as messengers earning much more than qualified and trained people. Increasing salaries will do nothing to establish a comprehensive public service remuneration system.
It is not worth throwing good money after bad.
As a newspaper we opposed the huge civil service wage increase because at 52 percent of the budget it was totally untenable. We said this was irresponsible, unfair and indiscriminate because it left out many public sector institutions including Local Government where salaries are pathetic.
The Public service is characterized by huge salary discrepancies that cannot be rectified by allocating more money to the mess. The first stage should be to rectify discrepancies, harmonize scales then implement a more sustainable across the board wage increase.
We have advocated for a wages and incomes policy commission that would critically study the matter in order to arrive at an equitable structure. As it stands there is no uniformity in the public service and more importantly public sector workers now earn much more than their counterparts in the private sector.
This structure does not take account of the majority Zambians who are in the informal sector including the majority peasants who have no salaries to look forward to and yet they have a legitimate claim on national resources.
The issue of public wages is a very serious matter which must be tackled with the seriousness, sobriety and practical exigency. Our colleagues in Ghana have formed the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, to tackle this problem and ensure an equitable outcome.
Similarly Nigeria had the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission which among many other things is supposed to advise Government on national income policy. The Commission has now been incorporated into the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC).
It is indeed irresponsible to spend 52 percent of the total budget on consumption by less than 200,000 people in a nation that has more than 12million people, the majority of whom live below US$1 a day. This situation is made worse by implementing an award that is haphazard.
That award was unfair, ill conceived and unjustified because there was no comprehensive wage harmonization scheme within and outside the public service. For example while the average civil servant now earns above K2, 000 Local Government employees, when paid, as many of them have gone for years without pay, receive less than K700. This is totally unfair.
At the extreme end of the scale are peasant and ordinary villagers who have no salaries. They depend entirely on earnings from their back breaking work in agricultural. They have no union to negotiate and bargain for improved prices for their produce, which prices have not risen in spite of wages in the formal sector increasing.
We said then and will say so again that what Zambia needs is a comprehensive wages and incomes policy that will define basic minimum needs and establish benchmark for wages and incomes. It is not a secret that the public sector currently commands some of the highest salaries and conditions of service.
This has given rise to disquiet and concern that those who produce the wealth in the private sector are paid less than those who provide service and therefore prey on public resources which are meant to finance health, education and other social services operated in the interest of the larger community.