By Mugove Tafirenyika
Following threats by teachers to down tools on Friday to press for improved working conditions, government has now reached out to the country’s educators in a bid to iron out differences.
The Daily News can report that officials from the ministry of Public Service met with unionists from the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) on Monday to narrow their differences and perhaps starve off a potentially crippling strike on Friday.
The indaba was also attended by senior executives from the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas), which provides medical cover for the bulk of the public service.
Leaders of the other unions representing the educators — among them the Zimbabwe Teachers Association — did not attend the Monday meeting due to unresolved issues in the Apex Council, a body that represents all civil servants.
On Monday, PTUZ notified its employer of their intention to march in Harare against a government they see as unresponsive to their concerns.
The union is also accusing Psmas of charging for their services in United States dollars.
The strike threat led to Public Service minister Sekai Nzenza, who was not taking calls when contacted for comment yesterday, inviting PTUZ leaders for talks.
PTUZ programmes officer Ladislous Zunde described the meeting as a “fruitful engagement”.
“We met officials from the Public Service ministry as PTUZ and had fruitful discussions with government where we presented our grievances and there was an undertaking from the employer’s side as well as Psmas, through its representatives, to consider our plight,” Zunde told the Daily News yesterday.
“We are not going to negotiate in the media as the process is ongoing but at the moment the message is that nothing has changed. What has changed is simply that we are engaging but nothing has been agreed to yet,” he said, when asked whether PTUZ would still go ahead with its Friday march in the aftermath of the meeting.
The march has received the backing of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe.
Psmas public relations officer Arthur Choga confirmed the meeting saying the medical insurer met the teachers as part of “our efforts to engage not only teachers but all our stakeholders.
“We are committed as an institution to meet all our stakeholders and membership to help each other confront the problems being faced in the health sector, so that is what is happening and we call upon our members to approach our offices should they face challenges,” Choga said while refusing to reveal details of their discussions.
The country’s educators and other government employees have been demanding that the employer pays their salaries in US dollars amid concerns that their earnings have been eroded to worthless levels owing to the plummeting value of bond notes — a surrogate currency introduced by government in 2016.
The teachers also want their employer to review their salaries upwards to above the poverty datum line they estimate is now over $800.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima recently told hundreds of primary school heads in Victoria Falls that government has no capacity to meet the teachers’ pay increment demands presently. DailyNews