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Zimbabwe faces government worker strike for higher wages

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Fuel and food prices are soaring in Zimbabwe as elevated inflation and a runaway exchange rate ratchet up pressure on government workers who have now given notice to strike.

Harare has been forced to resort to tightening the monetary sector, instituting measures aimed at constraining US dollar purchases to promote the local unit of exchange, the Zimdollar. File picture: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

FUEL and food prices are soaring in Zimbabwe as elevated inflation and a runaway exchange rate ratchet up pressure on government workers who have now given notice to strike.

Zimbabwe is battling an economic crisis that the government of President Emerson Mnangagwa is struggling to turn around. Harare has resultantly been forced to resort to tightening the monetary sector, instituting measures aimed at constraining US dollar purchases to promote the local unit of exchange, the Zimdollar.

The Zimdollar is struggling to stay afloat.

And with the petrol price set at $1.77 and the price of diesel at $1.80, food prices for commodities such as bread have been going up to about $1.20, with some shortages emerging after the government asked bakeries to keep the price low.

Government workers, including teachers and those from the public health sector, have given notice to strike on July 19.

“The Public Service Association, the Fed of Zim Educators Union and Nurses Federation of Zimbabwe hereby give notice of a service wide industrial action within 14 days,” said the public servants in a notice served to the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare.

They also advised that “the industrial action hereby notified” for July 19 is in respect “of a long overdue cost of living adjustment that speaks to the food basket” cost which has been spiking.

High food and fuel prices have driven up Zimbabwe’s yearly inflation rate to about 200 percent. The central bank has responded by hiking interest rates from 80 to 200 percent, viewed by some economists as inadequate to deal with the worsening situation.

Economist Brains Muchemwa said the Zimbabwean central bank is “running the most loose monetary policy in the world, serving only the interests of a few big corporates and impoverishing the ordinary men in the street”.

Higher interest rates mean that there is increased pressure on consumers that are remunerated in local currency.

Labour union leaders in Zimbabwe have criticised the government for cracking down on union leaders through arrests. This came after the arrest of a leader of rural Zimbabwean teachers last week.

“While the arrest of trade union leaders intensify, the cost of living rockets, the parallel market exchange rate reaches record high, impoverishing thousands of workers whose salaries have remained very low,” Japhet Moyo, leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said at the weekend.

High inflation fuelled by rising food and fuel costs are stoking up civil unrest in regional and international economies.

According to the World Bank, “growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to stall in 2022,” dropping from 4 to 3.6 percent.

“The slowdown reflects short-term disruptions including a global economic slowdown and persistence of health, financial, food and political crises effects,” notes the World Bank.

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