July 18, 2019 / 7:08 PM / 5 months ago

Zimbabwe state workers accept pay deal, avert strike

FILE PHOTO: A street vendor sells vegetables at a market place in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, July 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s public sector workers said on Thursday they had accepted a government pay offer, averting a potentially damaging strike in a country facing its worst economic crisis in a decade.

The workers had on Tuesday threatened to stay away from work unless the state raised wages to the equivalent of US$475 per month for the lowest paid - a move they said would only keep up with crippling inflation.

After negotiations which stretched into Thursday, the Civil Service Apex Council - a confederation of public sector unions - said the government had tabled an improved offer which it found acceptable.

“Through further negotiations and dialogue, we have achieved to make the government pay each and every civil servant the sum of 400 Zimbabwe dollars (US$45) as a once-off payment together with the salary of July, regardless of one’s grade,” the union said in a statement.

The union said it would continue talks with the government on another wage increase, which would take effect in August.

Soaring consumer prices, reflected in inflation which reached a decade-long high of 175.66% in June, have eroded incomes and compounded an economic crisis marked by the shortage of foreign currency, fuel and electricity, among other basics.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced the long-ruling Robert Mugabe after a November 2017 coup, has made economic revival his top priority. However, hopes of a quick rebound have been dashed by resurgent inflation and shortages of basic commodities.

Mnangagwa’s government, already under pressure to import grain after a drought-hit farming season, is also grappling with an electricity crisis which has seen the country enduring daily power cuts for up to 18 hours.

Reporting by Nelson Banya; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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