By Anna Chibamu
THE country’s largest teachers’ union has declared its members will not turn up for work when schools re-open this Tuesday, NewZimbabwe.com can reveal.
In a statement Saturday, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) said its members would down tools until government commits to paying salaries in US dollars.
“Our members are unable to report for duty with effect from the 8th of January due to incapacitation.
“To enable the teachers to report for work and to subsist, we demand the payment of salaries in US dollars,” said ZIMTA president Richard Gundani.
Similar demands have also been made by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
The PTUZ leadership met President Emmerson Mnangagwa in December last year who said he would respond to their representations after consulting his cabinet.
Meanwhile explaining the demand for salaries in foreign currency last October, ZIMTA said; “We as … believe that our demand to be paid salaries in foreign currency is justified as any further delays in doing so will destabilise the education sector.
“Our demand is informed by the fact that teachers can no longer afford to pay for daily commuting to work, buy food, rentals, and medical bills as all service providers are demanding payments in foreign currency.
“Government must be reminded that teachers have already been earning below poverty datum line (PDL) salaries and as such were worse off before and are now incapacitated.”
The union added; “Our current salaries can no longer sustain our mere existence as teachers in Zimbabwe.
“The current salaries, which are low and distorted, have driven teachers into poverty and incapacitation.”
ZIMTA’s strike call comes at a time the cash-strapped government is battling to end a month-long job action by junior doctors which has paralysed the country’s public health sector.
The doctors went on strike on December 1, demanding, among other things, that their salaries must be paid in US dollars.
Already failing to avail adequate foreign currency for the importation of fuel, the government has rejected outright payment of wages in US dollars.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, backed by acting president Constantino Chiwenga, told the doctors that government does not earn its income in foreign currency.
A claim by government officials Saturday that an agreement had been reached which would see the doctors return to work over the next 48 hours was dismissed as fallacious by the medics.