Sunday, January 25, 2009

Zimbabwe grinding to a halt

from IWPR:

Striking workers demand pay in dollars and rands as local currency effectively worthless.

By Jabu Shoko in Harare (ZCR No. 177, 23-Jan-09)

Private- and public-sector strikes are adding to Zimbabwe’s woes as pressure mounts for workers to be paid in foreign currency in the wake of the dollarisation of the country’s economy.

With the Zimbabwe dollar continuing to lose value every day due to hyperinflation and the general mismanagement of the economy by President Robert Mugabe and his subordinates, labour unions are putting pressure on the cash-strapped government and on weary private-sector employers to pay their workforce in US dollars or South African rands, the two currencies that have replaced the worthless local currency and are widely used, even in remote areas.

For the past three weeks, workers at government parastatal the National Railways of Zimbabwe, NRZ, have refused to work, protesting over low pay and poor working conditions, joining thousands of employees in the private sector who have not bothered to report for duty in the new year.

On January 21 the country’s postal service, ZimPost, ground to a halt as workers went on strike, demanding that they be remunerated in US dollars or rands.

Not to be outdone, employees of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, the country’s sole supplier of water, which has been blamed for the erratic supply of clean water, stopped working on January 22 and in Harare and Bulawayo local-government employees have withdrawn their labour, effectively crippling service delivery in the country’s capital and second-largest city.

Other government departments and parastatals are reportedly on go-slow strikes, while the nation’s teachers as well as doctors employed in public service have vowed not to return to their posts until government accedes to their demand to be paid in foreign currency.....

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