By Tendai Kamhungira
Teachers will be taking to the streets on Friday to protest against government’s offer of increasing their salaries by 15 percent, saying the effort fell far too short of their expectations.
Government had initially offered a 10 percent increase before upping the figure to 15 percent, with effect from July 1, following a meeting of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC).
Not convinced by the revised offer, the teachers are ratcheting up pressure on their employer, demanding salaries that are consistent with the poverty datum line (PDL).
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) told the Daily News yesterday that they were planning a protest on Friday, dubbed the Red Friday of Rage.
“What the government is offering in not in line with the prevailing economic situation, as the salaries are way below the PDL, which now stands at $720 according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe,” said Artuz secretary-general, Obert Masaraure.
According to Artuz, the Apex Council, chaired by Cecelia Alexander, let the teachers down during the NJNC, sentiments that were also echoed by the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta).
Zimta’s national secretary-general Tapson Nganunu Sibanda said during the NJNC meeting government negotiators offered to increase salaries by a paltry 15 percent and a rural allowance pegged at five percent.
“Furthermore, government indicated its willingness to pay cash in lieu of leave for the 38 359 teachers with overdue leave days by the 1st of July 2018. However, government was not ready to furnish us with the logistics of how this amount would be paid. We also demanded that government produces a paper detailing the housing project they are offering to workers,” Nganunu said in a letter to members dated May 14, 2018.
“We have maintained that salaries of the least paid teacher in Grade D1 should be pegged way above the PDL, as is the case with other professionals employed by the same government”.
Further engagements were still expected today.
Government has been under pressure from the civil service, who are pushing for better wages and improved working conditions.
The lowest paid government worker earns $253 per month.
As a way of trying to improve working conditions for teachers, government last week rescinded its decision to bar teachers from going on vacation leave.
It said teachers who were short changed by the vacation leave ban will be paid cash in lieu for the accrued days effective from July although the payments will be staggered.
The planned protests by the teachers have also been set in motion at a time when the Unemployed Teachers Association of Zimbabwe has written a letter to Education minister Paul Mavhima and the Public Service Commission, demanding recognition.
“We are writing this note with bitter and heavy hearts. It is (has been) long since you recognised us. Each year almost 3 000 qualified teachers are realised into the country adding to the almost 10 000 destitutes. Since 2016, when recruitment was frozen, qualified teachers were wondering from province to province, district to district in anticipation of jobs, but to no avail. We were surprised when you mentioned us as a reserve army of desperate teachers who are waiting for an opportunity,” the organisation said, threatening to take unspecified action.
“Of late you were saying your government does not have the capacity to recruit more teachers, even though we received the news with pain. We are asking the government to make arrangements with governments of surrounding nations who are in need of this neglected, committed workforce.
“As unemployed teachers we are declaring that, within seven working days upon receipt of this note, failure to address our issues will attract wrath from the legion of unemployed teachers,” the organisation said. Daily News