By Anna Chibamu
A TEACHERS’ union has called for civil service-wide strikes, threatening a difficult new year for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The call was made by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe’s (ARTUZ) whose members recently walked 275km from Mutare to Harare as part of demands for better pay.
Union members picked finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s offices in the capital after the walk during which they were arrested before being cleared by the courts.
In a statement, ARTUZ called on the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to coordinate the industrial action.
“ARTUZ calls upon all civil servants and the broader working class to stand with our doctors. We encourage the ZCTU to set dates for the national action.
“We invite workers to Mthuli’s office on 7 January, 2019 at 0900hrs to protests against austerity,” reads the statement in part.
Government is presently battling to end a crippling strike by junior doctors who stopped reporting for work at the start of December.
The clinicians are demanding salaries in the more stable US dollar as well as better working conditions and an improvement in the supply basic medicines and equipment.
Government has since suspended more than 500 doctors over the strike.
The rural teachers’ union said it fully supports the striking doctors.
“ARTUZ stands shoulder to shoulder with striking doctors,” the union said in its statement.
“The doctors are demanding a living wage, better working conditions and more medication in our hospitals.
“We are aware that government is planning to fire teachers who choose to take heed of the impending teachers’ job action in the same fashion they fired our doctors.
“The employer has declared war against employees, and we have reached a breaking point. We cannot allow the employer to reduce us to slaves under our watch.”
Meanwhile the larger Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) has also warned that government must address the foreign currency salaries demands before schools open in January.
“We are concerned because there is no progress in terms of the request we made to the Government,” ZIMTA secretary general Tapson Nganunu Sibanda told state media recently.
“We thought the Government was going to call us for a meeting and address this issue. We are behind time and the silence might affect opening of schools.
“Our members are agitated, and they want the Government to pay their salaries in foreign currency. The cost of living has increased, and civil servants’ salaries have lost value three-fold in 2018.
“We therefore want salaries to be paid in foreign currency considering that most service providers now prefer payment for services in foreign currency.”
The rival Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) also made similar demands during a recent meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa later said he would respond after consulting with his ministers.