Teachers, nurses clash with govt over salaries

Chris Mahove 

Nurses and Teachers began a nationwide job action today with placard waving nurses at the country’s main referral hospital, Parirenyatwa demonstrating at the hospital grounds where there was also heavy anti-riot police presence.

Teachers, however, appeared divided on the protest action with Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President, Takavafira Zhou saying there had been mixed feelings expressed by teachers as 50% of teachers reported for work and another 50% did not.

It however, could not be immediately established whether those in attendance were conducting lessons or not.

 “A major stumbling block in the teaching fraternity has been failure to find common ground. Every time teachers want to advance their pursuit for restoration of their purchasing power parity (US$540) a certain group of trade Unions purport to be engaging in negotiation with government which in essence is nothing other than firefighting and duping teachers. Unless teachers unite across the union divide as brothers and sisters, they will perish as fools,” said Zhou.

He said there would be no respite in schools until government pays teachers US$540, adding that any increase on the RTGs component was useless as inflation, sky-rocketing of basic commodities, transport, electricity, accommodation and water costs and medical costs would outstrip any so called increase.

“Post-dating any offer by government is a recipe for disaster and there is no way teachers can get to July pay day on the basis of starvation salary they got last Friday. The norm of fair labour practice is back-dating any offer in order to give workers a breathing space. There is urgent need to address the starvation salary of teachers if government expects them to report for work daily,” he said.

Some parents who spoke to Review & Mail said the issue of teachers had dragged on for too long and it was high time government decisively dealt with their matter so that their dignity could be restored.

“The teachers have genuine and reasonable concerns which government should address as a matter of urgency to save the education sector in this country. While strikes will negatively affect our children, we also sympathise with them because honestly they are getting a raw deal,” said Cosmas Marufu of Dzivarasekwa.

Another parent, Yeukai Mudzingwa said government should not wait for teachers to strike but should find lasting solutions to their plight so that learning is not disrupted.

“The poor salaries paid to teachers also affect us because we are now made to pay for extra-lessons so that our kids can get quality education. The teachers are no longer committed to their work and only do their best at extra-lessons where parents pay them in US dollars,” she said.

A National Joint Negotiating Council meeting held this Friday to look into the salaries of civil servants failed to reach a consensus after the workers rejected government’s offer of a 100% salary increase across the board.

The workers were demanding US$840 per month grade B1 or alternatively a blended salary.

The teachers and nurses are citing poor salaries and working conditions.

Educators under the Forum for Zimbabwe Educators Union (FOZEU) regurgitated their incapacitation calls, noting they will not be attending classes until their demands were met.

The call by teachers  come soon after a number of  teachers had the bulk of their salaries docked by the Public Service Commission (PSC), with the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Secretary General, Raymond Majongwe, claiming the lowest paid teacher took home a measly RTGS 1, 700 (US$3.40) for the month of June.

 “Issues on the June Incapacitation include erosion of teachers’ salaries by inflation, sky rocketing of basic commodities, transport, accommodation, medical services, school and examination fees, water and electricity bills etc.,” Zhou told Review & Mail.

Zhou said teachers were calling for the restoration of purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries to US$540 and the immediate end to unlawful GEMs deductions.

He said government should avail assistance to educators over payment of school fees for their children and reverse the unlawful deductions over the February incapacitation struggle by teachers.

“We call for collective bargaining in line with section 65 of the Constitution as opposed to defective, archaic and moribund Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997 and the engagement of teachers over educational reforms,” he said.

The PTUZ President said the purported meeting between the APEX Council and the government was a nullity saying the APEX Council had long ceased to represent the interests of workers.

“A thorn tree can never produce apples and so likewise is a defective meeting called with selected yellow Unions that will never provide a solution to teachers and government workers’ challenges,” he said.

He said government was taking teachers for granted, giving promises that it did not not fulfil.

“Teachers will not wait for infinity to get the promised assistance over school fees. The time to restore the purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries is long overdue. Teachers are workers too. The time to act is now,” he said.

Chiduku, on the other hand, said nurses wanted their salaries to be paid in United States dollars, citing the continued depreciation in value of the local currency and the ever increasing prices of basic commodities.

“With reference to the above mentioned subject, we wish to notify you that our members will not be able to turn up for duty starting on Monday June 20, 2022, until the following demands are met,” he said in a notification to the Health Services Board (HSB).

Zimbabwe Nurses Association President said they were also declaring incapacitation with immediate effect.

Nurses are getting an average of ZWL30 000 per month, which translates to approximately US$60 per month.

Government representatives are reported to have asked for time to consult their principals on the demands by civil servants.

However, in its latest publication published last Friday, the Patriot, a ruling party linked paper, accused FOZEU of being a “Western funded regime change agent seeking to cause chaos and mayhem in the country through calling for nation-wide strike by teachers,”.

“Ironically, the trail of this union leads right back to the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and other unions known to be funded by the West in the regime change agenda in the country.

The paper claimed calls for a strike were being made “after  some of their leaders, like  ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure and PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe, were paid handsomely to cajole teachers to embark on a strike after meeting US Charge d’ Affaires Thomas Hastings toward the end of April this year,”.

Unions affiliated to FOZEU include Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, (PTUZ), Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Educators Union of Zimbabwe (EUZ), Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers’ Union (ZDTU); Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA), Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union (ZINATU) and the Professional Educators Union of Zimbabwe (PEUZ).

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