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Workers sing the blues over Easter holidays



MOST workers are singing the blues this Easter holiday, unable to purchase basic commodities due to low disposable incomes, unions say.


The unions insist workers’ living conditions under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration are worse off compared to former president Robert Mugabe’s era.

This is despite the government effecting a 100% salary hike for civil servants, and a slight raise on Covid-19 United States dollar allowances, from US$200 to US$250 across all sectors.

As previously reported by The NewsHawks, an experienced rural teacher earned ZW$39 636 (about US$30 on the prevailing parallel market rate), while the rural allowance is ZW$1 982 (US$1.30) and the housing allowance is ZW$7 508 (US$5).

After the 100% hike, this means a teacher would earn ZW$79 272, a cushioning allowance of US$250, and an additional teaching allowance of US$80, bringing the total to US$330, which is lower than the US$800 and US$1 200 proposed by worker organisations.

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa rose to power on the back of a military coup in November 2017, teachers, among other public sector workers, were earning an average of US$540, which they are now demanding.

Teachers say the Easter holiday is a nullity, with civil servants still wallowing in poverty.
“The holiday is actually a nullity insofar as teachers are concerned, because they are struggling to survive and they are wondering how they are going to go through the holiday, and even the one-month holiday (school vacation) until they open for second term.

“And their families are actually in trouble. Their families expect them to celebrate and travel with others.

“Civil servants cannot afford such a luxury. It is unfortunate that the government is irresponsible, and has chosen to take a hard-line stance, choosing a callous and crude way of dealing with the workers. And I can tell you that it will be very difficult for teachers to open for second term, unless government uses the long holiday to rectify the issue of worker salaries,” said Takavafira Zhou (pictured), the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president.

He said while the holiday is expected to give a reprieve to teachers and other civil servants, teachers and their families are “angry, hungry, aggressive, and will be scavenging for food over the Easter holiday”.

Zhou said teachers are likely to face incapacitation when the time comes to return for the second school term.

While the government promised to pay fees for at least three beneficiaries from teachers’ families, a handful have benefitted from the scheme.

“The challenge is that the process is more expensive than the benefit. Teachers would spend money visiting the schools where their children. One may have children learning at three different places, and the money you would spend travelling to get invoices was more than the ZW$20 000 offered by government.

“So, we have argued that we would like a system where the benefits would be remitted into the teacher’s account, whether he has, or has not any children. It is a benefit for teachers, hence it must benefit all the teachers.

“That one is surely not a benefit. What we are looking for is a realistic approach to the salaries of teachers, and we would be happy if the government would even restore the US$540 we were earning prior to October 2018.

“Unless it is done, it is going to be difficult to open for the second term. So, all we want to do is to forewarn the government to address the issue of teachers’ salaries before the opening of schools,” Zhou said.

Workers’ unions have been on a stalemate over the minimum wage and United State-dollar salaries at the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF).

In December 2022, the government approved a US$150 minimum wage for workers, from the old wage pegged at ZW$2 574. However, most employers are yet to implement the agreed salary scale, plunging workers into poverty.

Labour is demanding a minimum wage be negotiated at national level and partly paid in foreign currency, while the government and the business sectir argues that negotiations for wages should be done at a sector level.

They have also rejected the proposed blanket policy compelling companies to pay in foreign currency, which has left workers, particularly unskilled labour, on the tenterhooks.
“The stalemate is still as is, and we are so hopeful that we are going to have a finalisation of the minimum wage as per agreement.

“Taking into consideration that by now we should have reviewed it in the first quarter, at the back of our minds, we are trying to understand how we can push for it by the time that we agreed, so that we cannot have workers on the losing end,” said Florence Taruvinga, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president.

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