PRESIDENT Mugabe has summoned ministers Patrick Chinamasa (Finance and Economic Development) and Priscah Mupfumira (Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare) for a crunch meeting to finalise a payment plan for civil servants’ bonuses, as he personally intervenes to ensure Government workers get a 13th cheque.
Our Harare Bureau understands that Ministers Chinamasa and Mupfumira will meet this week before they appraise their principal a week later on a framework detailing how Government will pay a bonus to its employees. Civil servants representatives will also convene a meeting with their employer this week seeking formal publication of bonus payment dates.
The meetings follow Government’s order reversing an abortive Treasury proposal for a two-year bonus freeze.
In the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement in September, Minister Chinamasa proposed the suspension of bonus payments as part of measures to cut the civil service wage bill. Civil servants generally receive their bonuses around December, though the 2015 payments to Government’s 298 000-strong workforce were staggered as the State rallied to ensure employees got the extra cheque despite tough economic conditions.
Minister Mupfumira last week said the President was “personally” concerned about the bonus issue and Government was likely to stagger payments again this year. She said the meeting with Minister Chinamasa would determine how bonuses would be paid.
“Government’s position has not changed since the clarification of Cabinet’s position was made public. First, I will have to meet with Minister Chinamasa and verify how much money we have in Treasury that can be dedicated towards payment of bonuses.
“We have an option to make a once-off payment like we did in previous years — that is if we have the money — or we stagger the payment like we did last year. We still stand by the clarification that was made last time stating that Minister Chinamasa’s recommendation to freeze bonus payments should be held in abeyance. The position today is that we will be paying bonuses but the question that remains is when we will be paying those bonuses. That is why Minister Chinamasa and myself will soon be meeting with our principal (President Mugabe) to finalise how we will pay the bonuses. We are likely to meet maybe end of next week (with Minister Chinamasa) then maybe a week later with our principal,” said Minister Mupfumira.
Minister Chinamasa could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mrs Cecilia Alexander, who chairs the Apex Council, said Government workers were hopeful bonus payments would start soon. The Apex Council brings together unions representing Government employees.
Mrs Alexander said: “We are not sure when our bonuses will be paid but we remain hopeful that they will be paid starting in November as per tradition. Right now what we are more concerned about is that our November pay dates are yet to be announced.
“We had a collective bargaining meeting last week but the issue of bonuses was not discussed because we are optimistic that the reversal of Minister Chinamasa’s proposals still stands. We are meeting again (this week) and we will be raising that issue without failure.”
Government is restructuring its workforce as part of reducing an unsustainable high wage bill that is gobbling over 97 percent of revenue. Minister Chinamasa proposed reducing employment numbers by 25 000, a cut on salaries and allowances, and foregoing bonuses for two years. In addition, he also proposed rationalising the number of Zimbabwe’s foreign embassies and consulates, reviewing air class travel arrangements of all public officials, and a reduction in travel allowances. He said such measures would reduce employment costs to around 60 percent of revenue by 2019.