Govt, teachers on collision course

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By AloisVinga

THE Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) says that it is working hard to get government to reverse the blanket punishment of deducting leave days from teachers who did not report for duty during a wildcat strike last month.

Zimta president Richard Gundani told in an interview that the union has already begun consultations with government to resolve the issue.

“We are working flat out to make sure that no single cent deducted from our members who participated in the February strike because whatever they did was above the law.

“There is no sense in punishing people for exercising their constitutional rights, so we are currently engaging government to make them realise that the approach they have taken must be urgently reversed,” Gundani said.

Last week, Public Service Commission acting chairperson ,Ozias Hove announced that 10 200 teachers nationwide  will have their leave days deducted as punishment for embarking on an industrial action  last month.

Hove said the commission was treating these 10 200 as first offenders and a repeat of the same offence would attract a more severe punishment.

But Gundani argued government was to blame for the failure by teachers to report for duty.

“Government must learn to protect its workers and not to punish them for exercising their rights. You will recall that teachers failed to turn up for duty not out of pleasure but due to the fact that their buying power had been eroded by inflation.

“The majority of them had reached a point where they could no longer afford basics like transport and food. Worse still, on our part we compromised and agreed to end the strike, a move which government seems to have forgotten,” Gundani said.

Teachers embarked on industrial action in early February arguing their incomes had been eroded by a massive spike in basic commodities triggered by President Emmeerson Mnanngagwa’s decision to increase fuel prices by 150%. The strike was called off after negotiations and promises from government to review teachers’ working conditions.