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The government of Zimbabwe has bowed to pressure from public sector unions and has announced this year’s bonuses will no longer be performance-based as announced earlier.

Public sector unions and the government met last Monday under the national joint negotiating committee (NJNC) where it was agreed every worker would get the bonus, albeit staggered over the months of November and December. The workers will also a get a US$200 bonus across the board, which is interestingly being called the presidential bonus.

“The bonus will be paid in two equal tranches across all sectors starting from November, with the latest payment being in December,” read a statement issued by the NJNC.

It said employees from deputy director level and below would get 100 percent of their gross salaries, and transport and housing allowances in USD as their bonuses on top of the US$200 component.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president, Obert Masaraure said while government had succumbed to relentless pressure from organised labour and dropped the performance-based bonus initiative, unions were still not happy about the way government was treating them.

“We are worried that the pension will be disbursed in instalments, posing danger of erosion of purchasing power. Bonus and all conditions of service should be fixed through collective bargaining. The government should uphold international standards, regional best practices and the constitution,” he said. Government had also failed to improve the RTGs component of workers’ salaries, which he said remained a cause of concern for workers. [The Real Time Gross Settlement dollar or RTGs was the only official currency in Zimbabwe from June 2019 to March 2020 before foreign currencies were allowed for trade again].

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Takavafira Zhou said the bonus had not been mutually agreed. “The bonus remains a one-armed banditry and not a product of collective bargaining. Government must strive to engage in meaningful dialogue with its workers. So while the government climbed down on performance related bonuses, the quantum is still not a product of collective bargaining and is low. The post bonus period would be very difficult to survive under. The assistance with school fees for teachers’ children has remained elusive and evasive,” he said.

Last month, outgoing Public Service Commission secretary general, Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe told guests at his farewell party that government workers would be paid bonuses based on their performance. “It is correct that bonuses from now on will be paid on the basis of performance. One hopes that every public servant will get a good bonus, but the principle is very straightforward: If the service is excellent you get an excellent bonus; if it is very good you get a very good bonus; and for good service you get a good bonus. But if it is nothing you embrace nothing,” he was quoted as saying.

But public service unions argued that this is aimed at victimising the many civil servants, including teachers and nurses, who had engaged in crippling job action earlier in the year demanding USD salaries and better working conditions. Government workers have been agitating for pre-October 2018 salaries of USD 540, which they argued would restore their purchasing power parity.

The prices of basic commodities in local currency terms have been sky-rocketing in the country, making most basic commodities beyond the reach of many who get their salaries in RTGs, which currently trade at between ZWL 800-900 to USD$1 on the parallel market.