Why Zimbabwe Teachers Union are insisting teachers should be paid in US dollars

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A former teacher, whose wife is still teaching, has come up with an interesting theory on why Zimbabwe’s teachers’ unions are insisting that teachers should be paid in United States dollars.

While it is true that the US dollar has become a store of value and the preferred currency by most people, the former teacher said one of the main reasons why unions want teachers paid in US dollars is that they will not question their union leaders’ hefty salaries in the greenback since everyone will be earning US dollars.

Though this appears to be a far-fecthed explanation, while unions are pressing for a starting salary for teachers of US$540, one union leader was reported to be earning US$3800 a month, a salary seven times that of a teacher, but with allowances his monthly salary came to US$10 891, enough for 20 teachers.

Salaries of union officials should come from membership subscriptions but apparently they are not. According to Education spokesman Taungana Ndoro, Zimbabwe has 145 000 teachers.  The biggest union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association reportedly has 41 000 members. Ndoro said the most vocal union, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has 386 members while the Zimbabwe National Teachers Union has only 50 members.

Zimbabwe now has about 10 teachers unions.

How then do the unions survive? Through western donors. And donors are not mother Theresa. Teachers have to push their agenda to get the funding.

A British junior minister, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, told the House of Lords three months ago that the British government was working with teachers unions. This is on record, in Hansard. He had been asked why the government was not working with unions to put pressure of the Zimbabwean government.

He responded: “My Lords…..We certainly have been meeting in Harare with various unions, including teaching unions, most recently in September 2021 on salaries and the impact of Covid-19. Trade unions form an important part of civil society in any country, and we engage with them at all levels.”

A diplomatic source told The Insider that the European Union was awash with cash, of up to US$5 million per organization, which it had already disbursed to ARTUZ and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe. The money was reportedly for voter education and mobilisation.

The aim is to mobilise people in the rural areas ahead of the 2023 elections. The source said churches as well as the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, had also received funding for the same purpose. Voter mobilisation for whom? Take your guess?

The recent teachers’ strike is therefore a bonus for the unions.  When the government said it had fired all striking teachers, the PTUZ said that 135 000 teachers had been fired. This implicitly meant that 93% of the teachers had gone on strike. What a success?

The government, which had made a terrible mistake as it is not the employer of teachers, backtracked and instead let the Public Service Commission, their employee, issue a new ultimatum to the teachers to return to work by tomorrow, 22 February or get fired.

It said only 50% of the teachers had not turned up for work.

Now teachers’ unions are divided. Zimbabwe says teachers should go back to work.

ZIMTA argues: “Incapacitation is not an imagined situation, incapacitation is not a strike, and it is a real situation which comes about with a cause, which is the salary. As a result, absenteeism becomes the order of the day. We have lessons to take away from the situation which is to say education is the loser and the learners are the losers. As we agree to go back to work from February 22, we are protecting professionalism. We are committed educators and we respect this noble profession, and that is why we are educators. We have committed ourselves that the best foot forward is to engage in constructive engagement and social dialogue with the government so that any industrial conflict is ultimately resolved”.

Other unions like PTUZ and ARTUZ say ZIMTA has sold out. Really?

While teachers’ have a genuine grievance, it might be time to audit their unions. Do they have members? If not who is funding them? Why?

The former teacher suggested that the Public Service Commission could start by freezing all subscription deductions and then ask teachers to fill new Salary Services Bureau forms agreeing to have membership fees deducted by unions of their choice.

He says this could be a rude awakening for the unions.

And of course, one should also ask, why are there so many unions representing teachers today?

Prior to independence there only two main unions one representing white teachers and the other black teachers. They united under ZIMTA which became the sole teachers’ union until Raymond Majongwe came up with the PTUZ? Now there are about 10. Even schools heads have a union representing them.

One commentator said unions were driven by donors so that when 10 different organisations made noise, it made it look like the country was under siege. It did not matter than one of the unions only had 50 members.

Source: The Insider