TEACHERS have roundly rejected the pay hike announced by the government this week, saying it falls far short of their demand for a US$540 minimum salary in the public service which existed during the late president Robert Mugabe’s era.
In the latest increment, Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga (pictured) announced a 100% upward review of Zimdollar emoluments from deputy director post and below for all sectors.
He also announced an increase in the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance from US$200 to US$250 across all sectors, excluding the health sector In the education sector, Guvamatanga announced a US$80 teaching allowance for every teacher, indexed to the interbank rate and paid in the moribund local currency.
There was also an increase in the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance for government pensioners from US$90 to US$100 and a promise of free primary education up to a maximum of three children at government schools for teachers as well as a funded funeral insurance framework for the rest of public sector workers.
However, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said the offer is ridiculous as it falls way short of the US$540 threshold that they were pushing for.
“For the avoidance of doubt, teachers and the rest of civil servants must take cognisance of the fact that the figures circulated in the communique are a product of figures discussed in the second meeting with workers’ representatives; that government team was persuaded to go back and reconsider by workers’ representatives.”
“In the first meeting, the government team had even brought miserable figures of 50% Zimdollar remuneration review and increase of cushion and Covid allowance from US$200 to US$220.”
“A wake-up call is not to negotiators but teachers and rest of civil servants. What is our response to government unilateralism, callousness and discrimination? Unity of action as opposed to competition remains a fundamental principle. Our demands must also remain realistic. It is a fact that teachers in particular, and other civil servants in general are worth over US$1 000 in terms of their labour value, but the restoration of US$540 as a basic salary must remain our clarion call.”
“Those who can’t swim across a stream cannot find energy to swim across the ocean. If we collectively fight for the restoration of our salaries’ purchasing power parity (US$540) as basic salary, we then can swim across the ocean. In the long run, a clear-cut legal framework of negotiation under section 65 of the constitution is a panacea for our current challenges. Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997 has outlived it’s usefulness, is archaic, obsolete and moribund,” said Zhou, adding: “Other than dispute over the total quantum, that did not resonate with US$540 as of October 2018, in the second meeting there were also sticking points that an increase must be backdated to 1 January as against government intentions to postdate the increment to April 2023, thereby robbing teachers and the rest of civil servants of a review in the first quarter.”
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said the union also rejected the offer because it is not a product of genuine collective bargaining as envisaged by section 203 (1) (b) of the constitution and as read alongside section 65 which stipulate that the employer is not allowed to unilaterally change conditions of service.
“Therefore on that level the offer is illegitimate and not a product of genuine processes.The quantum of the offer is not in sync with current realities of the teacher. If calculated, the amount leaves the teacher living on less than a third of the basket of needs and cost of living.”
“Thus the offer is not worth accepting because teachers remain poor. The US$80 per month which will be converted to local currency doesn’t cater for the school fees needs. The 100% increment makes a total of ZW$80 000 and means the housing allowance will just be ZW$14 000. The pathetic figures must be rejected,” he said.
Masaraure revealed that teachers remain incapacitated and cannot report for duty because the increment will be effected in April whereas the buying power of the money will have been eroded by inflation. “What we have seen so far is a statement from the employer and not an increment because the money has not been deposited into their bank accounts.”
“We are also aware of the discrimination of teachers by the employer. Other civil servants in different sectors received their increments in February and March . So the question then comes: Why is that of teachers being delayed? It’s a clear case and act of discrimination. So in light of that, teachers remain incapacitated and we reject the offer by government,” he said.
Added Zhou: “On the contrary, teachers and the rest of civil servants’ salary review, and cushion and Covid allowances are postdated to 1 April 2023. Such naked discrimination is not only callous but a monument of Zimbabwean labour injustice. We don’t need to have access to guns in order to be treated in the same manner with our brothers and sisters in the security sector.”
“We don’t begrudge their salaries but outright discrimination as professionals in total flouting of our national constitution.”
Since the beginning of the year, teachers have been pushing for a significant pay hike offer US$540 but the government has been adamant that it cannot meet that threshold.
The deadlock has resulted in teachers resorting to job action, with some being victimised and fired for demanding a living wage.