Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Teachers divided over strike action

File picture of teachers on strike in Zimbabwe
File picture of teachers on strike in Zimbabwe

The country’s largest teachers’ union — the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) yesterday said it would give dialogue a chance while the conglomeration of all the unions, Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (FZEU) — alleged some of its members had sold out to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Teachers had threatened to go on strike yesterday as they pressed for a hefty salary increment from government.

FZEU alleged that some of the unions have been bought by “a few pieces of silver” to agree to the government offer.

Teachers under the Apex Council led by Cecilia Alexander agreed to, among other things, be paid cash for the days they had lost after a vacation ban, and this will start from July.

Apex Council is the top body that represents all government workers.

Its chairperson Alexander said the government also agreed to reduce rentals for workers living in State-owned houses and restore long vacation leave for teachers.

Government has also offered the teachers to go on study leave using the unpaid vacation leave and a downward review of the monthly rentals to match their current housing allowance.

“As Apex Council, we said government should go back and increase the offer while we carry out the exercise of also consulting our members,” Alexander said, adding that she hoped negotiations could resume next week.

Zimta chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said union leaders would meet later on Tuesday to discuss the government offer. He said most teachers in Harare’s schools had reported for duty.

FZEU and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Association (Artuz) said they felt short-changed and accused Alexander of betraying the country’s underpaid civil servants.

In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, president of FZEU, Obert Masaraure, alleged government had bribed some senior officials in the Apex Council.

“The divide and rule tactic has always been there. It is important for teachers to focus on issues of bread and butter and desist from choosing silver over principle.

“We are aware that government is bankrolling some briefcase organisation that do not represent any worker but the interests of the individuals.  We are aware that government is determined to appear as if it respects human rights, and to do that they have engaged bosses at the Apex Council, including one who bought her position using resources from government, we have evidence to that,” said Musauraure.

In a statement, Artuz said “teachers are ready for action” even though they turned up for work.

“At all the (rural) schools that were visited by Artuz there was virtually no learning taking place. Learners could be seen milling around whilst teachers would be seen in groups discussing their way forward.

“The sit-in that we called for last night is a resounding success and a full blown strike is now imminent. Teachers are prepared to totally withdraw their labour.

“A few learners turned up for the new term with some schools recording a turn out as low as 15 percent.  Learners and parents who were interviewed by our teams attributed low turn out to the job action as parents were not sure if teachers would attend to their kids. The economic situation was also noted as some parents are still battling to secure fees,” read the statement.

“The offer of 10 percent from government is a serious assault on our living and working conditions we must strike back.

“We will not discharge our duties until vacation leave is restored with no conditions, 100 pecent salary increment, 75 percent of basic salary as rural allowance, teaching material for new curriculum and safety guarantee for all teachers. We are taking this route for the good of our education sector, we can’t trust disgruntled teachers to mould our kids,” said Artuz.

A snap survey by the Daily News yesterday revealed that most teachers were in classes at the start of the second term.

At Mabvuku Primary School in Harare, the Daily News crew witnessed learners milling around the school premises while some teachers could be seen basking in the morning sunshine, chatting and others seemingly discussing the strike and its possible “consequences”.

The same situation prevailed in other high density suburbs including Chitungwiza and Mufakose where students were seen either playing or just seated in the school playgrounds.

Government’s  proposed increase is still far lower than workers’ demands — they wanted 100 percent increase in pay — but it is still likely to widen the 2018 budget deficit, which was forecast at $672 million, or 4,5 percent of gross domestic product.

The deficit reached $1, 8 billion last year. — DailyNews/Reuters