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Zimbabwe PM says country is broke

Zimbabwe's new unity government is broke and cannot meet union demands for higher wages, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday.

Addressing a May Day rally, Tsvangirai said the government he formed with President Robert Mugabe in February to try to end a political and economic crisis that has brought Zimbabwe to ruin would maintain the current monthly salary of US$100 that it is paying its workers.

"This government is broke, and we are only able to pay the US$100 allowance, but when things improve, we want this allowance to graduate into a proper salary," he said. "For now, everyone, all of us, including President Mugabe, is getting US$100."

Tsvangirai, a fiery former trade union chief, pleaded with Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to give the new government time to fix the economy before pressing its demands for a minimum wage of US$454.

"We have been in office for less than three months. I plead with you to please give us time," he said. "Your demands must be realistic, taking into account that your government is broke and that industry has not been performing."

Earlier, ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo told thousands of workers at the rally that the labor movement would call national strikes and protests to press its case.

"If this is not met, the workers are going onto the streets," Matombo said, without giving any deadline.

Tsvangirai said both his Movement for Democratic Change and the president's ZANU-PF party wanted the government to succeed in repairing the economy.


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