By Anna Chibamu
TEACHERS’ unions have scoffed at Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube’s offer of a 20% salary hike saying it amounts to nothing.
Following an ongoing, crippling strike since opening of schools Monday, government offered to increase their salaries 20% backdated to January 2022 and a US$100 Covid-19 allowance effective March.
But the offer has found no takers with teachers’ unions maintaining demands for a US$540 wage and a better Covid-19 allowance if they are to set foot in classrooms again.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe told NewZimbabwe.com said teachers were of the opinion that government was not taking them seriously.
“Government is not taking employees seriously. Whatever they are offering is nothing because there is no dialogue, we believe in dialogue but NJNC has not met with employees so where is the government getting all this,” Majongwe said.
“20% of nothing is nothing. A teacher earns ZW$20 000, then 20% of that is ZW$4000 which will add up to ZW$24 000. This figure is nowhere close to US$100 before we even talk about buying a car and paying school fees for my children. Treasury has done nothing for the teacher, we do not want our children’s fees paid by the government (BEAM) as if we are late. The government has promised to build houses for us. Are we as teachers not able to construct houses for ourselves? After all, those flats they have built for civil servants are now occupied by their girlfriends and relatives. We do not want fake promises. We are being promised duty-free cars, how are we going to buy those vehicles with such a little salary? Where will you buy a vehicle with just ZW$4 000,” he said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) secretary general Robson Chere said their members will dig in after Ncube’s shockingly low package.
“ARTUZ is shocked by the unilateral pronouncement of an inadequate new salary package by the employer,” said Chere. The Union is consulting its members on the way forward given the government’s complete disregard of collective bargaining and the inadequacy of the government’s new package. Teachers remain incapacitated and remain in the trenches as we consult out membership and the sister Unions in FOZEU,” Chere said.
Young Teachers of Zimbabwe (YTZ) also announced its members will continue with the struggle for better wages, allowances and working conditions despite the offer.
Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Service Sector Trade Unions President (ZCPSTU) Cecilia Alexander was more diplomatic, as she chose to take a ‘glass half full’ approach.
“Our prayers in having our salaries in United States Dollars (USD) have been answered. Negotiations are ongoing and for now, we will take what is there and push for negotiations to be brought forward as early as next week,” said Alexander.
“I sympathize with employees and agree that conditions of service are far below what is required for them to effectively deliver.”
Alexander was in 2019 forced to tear a letter meant for government from unions’ outlining the sector’s grievances after police stopped a demonstration they were meant to undertake before union leaders questioned her soft stance towards government.
Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has joined opposition political parties, human rights activists and parents in support of the strike that has virtually stopped learning in this first term.
ZPP laid into ministry of education permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela for her ‘command’ tactics after threatening to suspend all teachers and headmasters on strike.
“We believe this is not only inadequate but also shows how the government is out of touch with the depth of challenges in the entire sector,” read ZPP’s statement released Wednesday.
“We call on the government to move away from using command tactics on the education sector and to provide the necessary resources so that children in any part of the country can enjoy the quality and accessible education.”