By Staff Reporter
SHARP divisions have emerged among teachers’ unions over teachers’ strike, with some urging their members to return to work when government’s ultimatum for them to do so lapses while others remain adamant the industrial action will continue.
Teaches have refused to return to work since schools reopened for the first term of 2022 on February 7, demanding to be paid in United States Dollars.
Government initially responded by suspending them enmasse, a move the High Court quashed, before threatening to fire everyone who does not report for duty by February 22.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) urged its members to return to work, but other unions resolved to soldier on until their salary demands were met.
Government said it planned to replace teachers who fail to report for duty with college graduates.
Zimta president Richard Gundani said his union, the largest with about 42 000 members, had resolved to return to work to protect the education sector.
“Incapacitation is not an imagined situation, incapacitation is not a strike, and it is a real situation which comes about with a cause, which is the salary. As a result, absenteeism becomes the order of the day. We have lessons to take away from the situation which is to say education is the loser and the learners are the losers. As we agree to go back to work from February 22, we are protecting professionalism. We are committed educators and we respect this noble profession, and that is why we are educators. We have committed ourselves that the best foot forward is to engage in constructive engagement and social dialogue with the government so that any industrial conflict is ultimately resolved,” Gundani said.
But other unions have vowed that their members will not report for work despite the threat of dismissal.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou criticised Zimta, saying it has weakened the teachers’ struggle to fight for better pay.
“That agreement has ultimately affected the teachers. It is better to make decisions based on teachers that are in schools that are suffering and not necessarily on the feelings of leaders. The decision has put teachers in a quandary because we need to be united. It would be difficult to continue the war as a divided device. There is always need for unity in order to achieve maximum benefits from the employer rather than from a divided position,” Zhou said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president Obert Masaraure said: “The union aristocrats at Zimta have always been keen to frog-march teachers back to the classroom. The rank and file teachers are consistent that only US$540 will take them to the classroom. Teachers have to decide whether to follow the instruction from leaders who are divorced from the lived realities of teachers, or they continue with the fight for a living wage.”
Last week, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister Lovemore Matuke told Parliament that the government had addressed their grievances after awarding public workers a 20% salary adjustment and US$100 cash, which will be deducted from their local currency salary component.
“I think we should thank the government for providing such a good reward. I do not think going forward we will get teachers complaining, but as our economy improves, I think we will still revert to our Zimbabwe dollar 100%,” Matuke said.