By Staff Reporter
PUBLIC Service unions have reject a government circular that has directed junior civil servants to forfeit their leave days as part of the austerity measures to mitigate the impact of debt.
Judiciary and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (JAWUZ) president Peter Mwale charged that the austerity measures being introduced by government are just meant to perpetuate misery and suffering among the civil servants,.
And Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambian (CSAWUZ) general secretary Joy Beene has asked government to cut down on presidential and ministerial entourages if the austerity measures were to be taken serious.
Mwale asked government to immediately withdraw its circular describing it as evil.
Mwale warned that his union would consult and mobilize its members to reject austerity measures if government failed to withdraw its circular.
“We as representatives of the civil servants do not recognize this circular. We don’t accept it because it is evil. It must be withdrawn forthwith,” said Mwale. “The circular was written in bad faith. It is fake…it is meant to perpetuate misery and suffering among the civil servants. If government fails to withdraw this circular, we shall consult our members and mobilise them to reject it”
He wondered why government was quick to direct its austerity measures at the poorly paid civil servants when it was busy buying expensive vehicles for the Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.
According to Mwale, average civil servants get between K2800 and K3000 per month which he described as meagre salaries.
He said the current economic environment was not favourable for the civil servants.
“As you may be aware that civil servants are poorly paid in this country, civil servants are heavily taxed and the only relief they get is leave days commutation. It is evil to ask civil servants to forget what is due to them at the time they hardly make ends meet,” said Mwale. “We can’t accept a circular that was crafted by few individuals without the involvement of the stakeholders. This circular is highly misplaced.”
Mwale charged that the circular was aimed at sabotaging the impending salary negotiations between public service unions and government.
“Its timing is all wrong because we will soon be engaging government over salary negotiations. We shall not accept any attempts to sabotage the bargaining process. They have released this circular to create an impression that government has no money to increase salaries for the civil servants,” said Mwale. “This cannot be accepted. How come government is buying very expensive vehicles for its senior officers such as ministers, Permanent Secretaries? They must tell us why Ministers and Permanent secretaries’ allowances have not been cut.”
Mwale said the austerity measures should be directed at senior government officers such as ministers and Permanent Secretaries instead of the poor junior civil servants.
“We are not to blame for the debt…when government started borrowing we raised our concerns but they called us all sorts of names…they called us unpatriotic. We raised an alarm because we knew it was going to affect the civil servants. We are not the ones who have caused this debt crisis for the austerity measures to be directed at us,” said Mwale.
Mwale asked government to find money for the civil servants’ salary increment for the next financial year.
“It will work well for government to start scouting for money for the purpose of upward adjustment of civil servants’ salaries considering the harsh economic environment,” said Mwale.
Been said his union would only accept the circular if government abolished bloated presidential and ministerial entourages which he said were wasteful of public resources.
“Let this circular affect all those involved in public expenditure. All ministerial entourages must be stopped as well for this circular to be taken serious. As long as these entourages continue it will not make sense,” said Beene.
In a circular dated 16th August, 2018 and signed by Public Service Management Division Permanent Secretary Boniface Chimbwali, government banned commutation of leave days by the civil servants.
“Outstanding commutation claims already approved and awaiting payment prior to the issuance of Cabinet Office Circular No. 15 of 2018 and dated 29th June, 2018 be scrutinized and reviewed; and only those employees who at the time had accumulated leave days above the maximum entitlement of 230 for Division 1, 205 for Division II and 160 for Division III as provided in Terms and Conditions of Service No. 104 (a), be qualified for the payment of the outstanding commutation,” read the circular in part.