Unions fume as PSC docks teachers leave days for going on strike

HARARE – The government says it will deduct leave days from teachers who went on strike earlier this month.

The Public Service Commission, in a statement, said it had compiled a list of teachers who “absconded from work without authority.”

Unions said the move is “an attack on teachers”.

“The PSC has noted isolated cases of abscondment by about 10,200 teachers for durations ranging from one to four days between 5 and 8 February 2019. The PSC would like to advise all those who were absent from work without authority that deductions from their leave days using the principle of ‘no work, no pay’ will be effected,” the PSC said in a statement on Wednesday.

Teachers who turned up to schools but conducted no lessons are also affected, the PSC said.

The statement went on to say the striking teachers were being treated as “first offenders”. “A repeat of the same offence will attract more severe punishment,” the PSC added.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), which called the strike together with the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA), said it disagreed with the PSC’s position that the strike was illegal.

Raymond Majongwe, president of PTUZ, referred the government to a January 8, 2019, letter by the Apex Council – the umbrella union for all public sector workers – giving a 14-day strike notice after talks for improved working conditions broke down.

“Once again the government is bracing to launch an attack on teachers. The Apex Council gave a strike notice. We’re surprised the government is saying notice was not given,” Majongwe said.

“Punishing these suffering teachers will negatively affect service delivery. The PTUZ position on this is very clear. The government is doing a public kangaroo hearing. There’s what’s called due process. Instead of writing these statements, they should be discussing serious issues with unions. This they will never win. Teachers are not soldiers.”

The PSC’s acting chairman Ozias Hove insisted “negotiations in the context of the National Joint Negotiating Council on the improvement of conditions of service for civil servants continue, and the Apex Council has never declared a strike, therefore all civil servants are required to be at work.”

The government, in trying to force unions to shelve plans for strike actions, has used threats of replacing workers who embark on industrial actions.

Civil service unions say the cost of living has shot up, but their salaries remain unchanged. The government, which already spends nearly 90 percent of its budget on staff costs, says it cannot afford to raise salaries until the economy improves.