Another school’s disruption loading

Chris Mahove

Schools in the country are facing another round of disruptions after civil servants’ representative bodies, including teachers’ unions, threatened a full-blown strike at the end of this month if government fails to meet their demands for a salary increase.

Already there have been several disruptions since 2018 when teachers went on a nationwide strike citing incapacitation. This was followed by further distractions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw schools totally shutting down for almost two years.

When schools re-opened in February this year, another teachers’ strike immobilized learning at majority schools as teachers, once again embarked on a work-stoppage, depriving students of long periods of learning.

The government went on to suspend those who joined the job action without pay, invoking the no work no pay principle.

But the teachers resumed their strike during the second term, although their intended stay-away was a flopped; and vowed to continue with their industrial action at the beginning of the third term, which began on September 6.

However, after promises by the government to pay the teachers the USD540 they were demanding this month, the teachers decided to wait for the September pay-day, which was dubbed D-day.

And they met with disappointment after no salary hike was affected for all government workers, prompting them to hold an emergency meeting Friday where they gave the government a 10-day ultimatum or face a nationwide strike by all civil servants.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union President, Obert Masaraure, had no kind words for Mthuli Ncube, who he labelled a liar for reneging on its promise to award them a salary increase this month.

Masaraure said there was so much hope for an adjustment in civil servant salaries in September, but teachers had been disappointed by Ncube who said an increase would lead to inflation, saying the only way forward was unity of civil servants in fighting for better salaries.

“The countdown is over; all doubts have been cleared. Mthuli Ncube lied that our salaries will be reviewed this month. We have never outsourced solutions from anyone, we viciously defend the interests of our stomachs. Teachers will rise and fight back in a way never imagined by the employer,” he said.

He said Ncube had promised early August this year that their salaries would be reviewed in September following a meeting between government Ministers, including Minister of Finance, Mthuli Ncube and the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, (ZCPSTU).

Masaraure said the statement by the finance minister had ignited massive expectations from the underpaid civil servants and was going to be their first increment without a fight.

“September pays day is here and it is now clear that Mthuli Ncube once again sold the workers a dummy. He has been doing it for years now and has made a name for himself by successfully robbing workers of their salaries for 5 years. The man can lie his way out of any situation,” he said.

He said while the promise was not bound by any Collective Bargaining Agreement, they had believed, adding they had been denied their right to Collective Bargaining.

 “Sections 65(5)(a) and 203 (1) (b) of the constitution provide for collective bargaining for civil servants but the government has deliberately remained resident in the past using laws nonaligned to the constitution. Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997 which establishes the National Joint Negotiating Council effectively curtails Collective Bargaining and is now redundant and unconstitutional but the government still sticks to the same. Unconstitutional provisions of the Public Service Regulations, for example section 20 of Public Service Act and Public Service Regulations which only provides for mere consultations between employer and employee are still being religiously followed,” he said.

He said government had taken steps to stop the teachers from embarking on job action by suspending some teachers for previous strike action, dragging them to disciplinary hearings and docking their salaries to instill fear in others.

“Third Term is a perfect opportunity to wage a disruptive fight back, Public examinations are conducted in this term. Will Civil Servants allow Mthuli Ncube to continue robbing them of their salaries post September pay day 2022? In light of price hikes, like the recent fees hikes at the University of Zimbabwe, Civil servants have no option but to fight back,” he said.

Writing on their official Twitter handle Friday, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) said payment of salaries below the Poverty Datum Line amounted to unfair labour practice.

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