HARARE, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's public sector unions on Tuesday staged a peaceful demonstration in the capital Harare during which they handed a petition to the government demanding an upward review of workers' salaries.
The leaders of the unions said salaries of government workers had been eroded by rising inflation, making it difficult for them to make ends meet.
As part of the protest, the Civil Service Apex Council and Health Apex Council leadership marched to the offices of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare Minister Sekai Nzenza and her Finance and Economic Development counterpart Mtuli Ncube where they handed in a petition with their grievances.
According to the petition, the workers are demanding an alignment of their salaries to the interbank foreign exchange rate, currently pegged at around 9 Zimbabwe dollars to 1 U.S. dollar.
This comes after the government this week offered the workers a cushioning allowance of 97 Zimbabwe dollars, which was rejected by the workers.
"Civil servants are not asking for a salary increment but rather restoration of their earnings which fell from 475 U.S. dollars in October 2018 to a mere 47 dollars for the lowest paid civil servant," the workers said.
"In arriving at the figure for a cost of living adjustment, the interbank rate must apply, bench-marked against the pre-October 2018 average salary for the lowest paid civil servant. This will therefore mean the lowest paid worker should earn 4,750 Zimbabwe dollars to restore the value of their earnings," the workers added.
The Zimbabwe government introduced the foreign currency interbank market in February and discarded the 1:1 ratio it had maintained between the Zimbabwe dollar and the U.S. dollar.
The local currency debuted at 2.50 to the U.S. dollar, and has since depreciated to the current 9 dollars against the greenback.
The public sector workers argue that businesses were pricing their goods and services using the inter-bank exchange rate and hence were too costly for them.
Accepting the petition, Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare deputy minister Lovemore Matuke said the concerns of the workers would be dealt with through on-going negotiations between the government and its workers.
"We have received your petition and we are definitely going to look into the matters you have raised. I believe there are on-going talks which I believe will yield positive results," he said.
Zimbabwean government workers have been at odds with their employer since last year over poor salaries, resulting in intermittent strikes by nurses and junior doctors at public hospitals.
Nurses at government hospitals are currently working for at least three days a week, citing incapacitation to work normal hours.