By Anna Chibamu
GOVERNMENT and Civil Servants representatives have been urged to desist from politicising the plight of civil servants and engage in meaningful negotiations for the benefit of state employees.
This is according to a joint report of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the petition from Teachers Unions which was submitted in the National Assembly last week.
The petition was received from the teachers’ unions namely Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe ((PTUZ) in June 2019 with the aim of exploring the possibility of coming up with a framework that favours the majority of civil servants then
“We really plead with both parties and in this instance, Government and teachers have a responsibility to ensure that the future of our children is in the right hands. We cannot continue to go years and years without getting to a point at which we can say this is the position that we now have. If we are going to do incremental things, let there be an agreement around that. I do not think that the attitude of weighing each other and thinking who is more powerful than the other works because it is at the detriment of our children,”Misihairabwi-
Mushonga told the acting speaker Tatenda Mavetera.
Regarding the the issue, she added that there should be a conversation to see whether there is a way, without necessarily overturning the entire negotiating framework for civil service in which teachers in particular may find themselves onto the negotiating framework.
“We felt that in most countries, they do have a sectorial way of negotiating with teachers. We are not recommending a specific one because we think it is a basis for conversations. One of the problems is, even though we have a negotiating framework, the teachers feel alienated from that negotiating framework.
“There could be a way of coming up with it and like I said, as both Committees, we do not have a proposal as yet but we did see from other countries that it resolved some of the problems that are associated with the majority of civil servants,” stated Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
On the other hand, the committees felt the Public Service ministry should draft a Bill on the management of unions in order to rationalise activities of these bodies by December 2021.
Among other recommendations the committees urged government to prioritise the welfare of teachers saying they have been reduced to paupers when they die or retire.
The report also stated ZIMTA and PTUZ representatives decried that while teachers and other civil service workers have been negotiating for the upwards review of their salaries and improvement of working conditions for several years, the Government has always responded by awarding paltry increments.
An illustrative example was the $69 awarded to workers in the Civil Service across the board in April 2019 on a salary that was initially awarded in United States Dollars (US$) without taking into account that the two currencies were no longer at par and that the inflation rate was estimated to be 900 percent.
In addition, the petitioners complained that it was difficult for teachers to access critical services such as health care as they were priced in US dollars.
Consequently, teachers could not meet basic needs of their families such as food, accommodation rentals and school fees. The reduction of student teacher grants to dating back to 2017 by 43 percent was also noted to be an issue of concern as they can no longer sustain themselves.
Further, the petitioners lamented that salaries in the education sector were not commensurate with rank and authority as grading was last done in 2000.
The difference between a headmasters and teacher’s salary was reported to be $20.00, while that of a Senior Teacher and Schools Inspector was $15.00.
MPs debating the presentation had this to say, “Hon Madhuku; “when teachers retire, they become paupers and die early because they cannot sustain themselves.
“They cannot meet the medical bills because they do not have money. So these issues of safety and security needs are very critical. That is why we are talking about the fact that they also need decent remuneration so that they are able to pay even fees for their children,” said Zanu PF Bikita East MP Johnson Madhuku.
MDC Alliance legislator Anele Ndebele also added that teachers should be given enough salaries so that they make their own decisions on how to use the money.
Ndebele said incentives and other benefits like stands or land should not be regarded as a basis to give lower salaries because most teachers were not even affording to pay fees for their children.