Zimbabwean teachers call off strike

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s largest teachers’ union on Monday said it was calling off a strike which has disrupted learning at schools since September.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) said it had wanted a deadlock to be declared in negotiations with the government after its members rejected a 40 percent pay increment last week.

The union, representing over 100,000 teachers, said six unions from the “rest of the civil service” and two smaller teachers’ unions had accepted the government’s offer and signed, effectively binding ZIMTA as a member of the 15-union Apex Council which negotiates for civil servants in the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC).

Only the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) supported ZIMTA’s stance among the teachers’ unions, according to ZIMTA secretary general Tapson Nganunu Sibanda.

“These developments effectively mean that the increase of November 13, 2020, tabled by the employer are the effective salary levels. Now, therefore we advise our members to start returning to stations as required. Members resident in their stations or within the boundaries could start active re-engagement with learners this week, while those requiring travelling to distant stations could do so after collecting their November salary,” Sibanda added.

The PTUZ said: “The agreement between the government and its shadow, the Apex Council, is a classic example of an agreement between hostages and a hostage taker. The two have put a gun to the heads of teachers, provincial education directors, district schools inspectors and school heads and now thank them for their ‘understanding’.”

On Monday, the ministry of primary and secondary education wrote to provincial education directors demanding to be furnished with names of teachers who have not reported for duty. The government planned to dock their pay, but it appears headmasters have so far steadfastly refused to comply.

“At the end of the day, Friday, November 13, no province had submitted the requested information on names of teachers who had not reported for duty since September 28 as requested by the Public Service Commission,” the ministry’s human resources director Learnson Tagara wrote.

Tagara threatened that “non-submission or further delays may be interpreted as sympathising with the industrial action which may lead to disciplinary action being taken against the responsible officials.”

In a circular to its members, ZIMTA said it would “stand by you should there be attempts to overzealously effect unwarranted charges on the incapacitated lot.”

It urged teachers to “advise authorities of your next reporting date as circumstances dictate”, adding: “The employer is aware of this predicament, we expect him/her to recant the prevailing mindset of laying charges.”

Civil servants were demanding to be paid October 2018 salaries, when the lowest paid worker earned US$520.

The 40 percent increase offered by the government and a further 10 percent risk allowance will see a teacher’s salary rise to Z$19,975 (about US$245 in official exchange rate).

Teachers will get bonuses of Z$10,935 in December, according to a schedule compiled by ARTUZ.

Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander said: “We have settled for the government offer because we are now getting to the end of the year and the government is also going to be paying us bonuses. What it means is that if we had refused the offer, civil servants were going to lose bonuses or get paid using calculations of the previous salary structure.”

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