By Alois Vinga
LABOUR groups have criticised President Emmerson Mnangagwa over plans to withhold salaries of all teachers on strike.
Speaking during a briefing in Mutare last week, Mnangagwa vowed to stick to the stance that government cannot meet US$520 salary demand by educators.
“We will apply the principle that those who work will get paid. Those who are at home are not considered to be at work,” Mnangagwa said then.
However, teachers’ representative groups have described the stance taken by government as “unfortunate and insensitive” of the obtaining economic challenges currently experienced by the educators.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Takavafira Zhou described this as an indication that the head of state was “ill informed” on the obtaining socio-economic conditions.
“We need to go to work but we are simply incapacitated. Our salaries are just around an equivalent of US$40 and we will be grateful if the President can break that amount down and show us how best we can manage to take care of our families within this dollarised economy,” he said.
Zhou argued that basic accommodation rentals for a family of six are pegged at US$240, funeral insurance US$24 while university fees are hovering around US$600, among other basic needs like food, electricity and water.
Added the PTUZ chief, “President Mnangagwa cannot try to use the ‘no work, no pay’ principle under such circumstances. It will be degrading and callous.
“Apart from that, soldiers are now earning threefold as compared to teachers. Yet we are told there isn’t enough money to meet our demands.”
The PTUZ leader vowed not to call off the strike saying threatening to employ other teachers will not overturn the fact that current salaries were too low.
Also commenting on the obtaining situation, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general Japhet Moyo decried the fact that workers’ demands have always been met with various retributive tactics from the government and employers within the private sector.
“We saw the same response to nurses and doctors’ strikes in the past and workers should just mentally prepare themselves for hostile response from employers.
“Some threats mean nothing because workers are getting nothing. When you pay peanuts then you withhold or withdraw peanuts,” he said.
Moyo said such knee-jerk responses to genuine worker demands did not address the issues at hand because workers would still remain incapacitated going forward.
“Workers are not on strike but they are handicapped and unable to fulfil their contractual obligations and taking away the little that they have been receiving is evil and unfair labour practice,” he said.