January 9, 2004

Civil Servants protest against announced wage freeze



Civil servants will not tighten their belts any further, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba has stated. Reacting to labour minister Lt Col Patrick Kafumukache's announcement that the government would affect a wage freeze on civil servants' salaries for the first six months of this year, Hikaumba advised government leaders to lead by example and sacrifice as well. "For the past few years, we have been given increments based on the principle of sacrifice because government wanted to qualify for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief," he said. According to him, the unions were not told about the steps that would follow after Zambia had qualified for the HIPC. Hikaumba further stated that the union had recommended to the government that they be part of the negotiating team when discussing conditions with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank but that had not happened.
One of the conditions for Zambia to reach the HIPC completion point was to spend only eight percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on personal emoluments. "When they talk about eight percent of GDP, we don't know how it was arrived at and what conditions were taken into consideration," Hikaumba said. According to him, it was told that the leaders' salaries would be reduced but they had not. It was not fair for the government to ask civil servants to sacrifice when they themselves would not. Hikaumba stressed that civil servants were equally not ready to be subjected to further sacrifice by emphasising: "We don't want to be sacrificial lambs for their shortcomings," he said. "We have completely refused the wage freeze." (The Post, Lusaka)

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