Zimbabwe: Government must pay teachers decent salaries for them to resume work

published 21 October 2020 updated 28 October 2020

The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) find themselves in confrontation with the government over teachers’ salaries and ‘incapacitation’, as teachers remain out of the classroom. They have urged the Government to improve its financial offer to teachers in order to get them to return to work.

Statement on salaries

According to ZIMTA, the Secretary of the Public Service Commission allegedly posted on social media a statement addressing teachers’ remuneration.

ZIMTA President Richard Gundane has stressed that his union can neither confirm nor disavow the authenticity of the government official’s statement.

However, he did refer to the statement “as a public posture by the author, with an intention to refute and reject the salaries of educators”. Referring to negotiations about teachers’ salaries, Gundane said the Secretary’s “statement does not reflect any new developments but confirms the disputed 40 per cent offer put on the table” during a recent meeting.

For Gundane, a thorough reading of the figures in relation to the salaries indicates that it is “a total of one’s September salary plus the rejected 40 per cent offer plus a US$75 (€63) COVID-19 allowance”. He added that the COVID-19 allowance is a “compassionate offer, so far not pensionable, meaning that the actual value, excluding compassion, is the current salary plus 40 per cent”.

He explained that, in the absence of an improved offer by the public authorities, no teacher will earn more than ZWL 4,900 (€51 approximately) in pensionable emoluments.

Decent salaries

ZIMTA has called on its members to keep on putting pressure on the government and to call themselves “incapacitated”.

“Teachers need decent salaries in order to work,” the union leader insisted. “Teachers deserve better working conditions to get motivated. Teachers want to remain professional. Teachers should be paid in order to remove ‘incapacitation’.”

‘Incapacitation’ of teachers

The term “incapacitation”, Gundane explained in a 13 October statement, has been “unfortunately and, in some instances, mischievously referred to as an ‘industrial impasse’, a ‘strike’ or ‘job action’”.

But none of these terms describes the teachers’ situation appropriately, he acknowledged. According to him, ‘incapacitation’ describes a worker’s economic status and is extrinsically generated. “The external environment as controlled by the employer creates this hostile/unfriendly situation,” he said.

Not on strike

For ZIMTA, teachers are not on strike but ‘incapacitated’.

The union also underlined that the following actions are not effective in getting teachers back to their classrooms:

  • Threats associated with political bigotry
  • Token incentives
  • Improper application of regulations
  • Appeal to emotional sympathies

“All these tactics fail on the tests of sustainability and reason,” Gundane said. He urged ZIMTA members “to demonstrate to the nation, without fear or favour, that we want to be ‘economically and financially capacitated’ to go back to our work and do what we love best, that is to ‘Educate the Nation’ – the education union’s motto. Without money, we remain ‘incapacitated’.”

No collective bargaining, but a ‘sham process’

PTUZ General Secretary, Raymond Majongwe, also noted that the Government seems to prioritise other categories of workers and employees than teachers, i.e. those working in prison, in the police or in the army. These are treated better than the teachers.

“Why is the government selectively doing this?”, he asked. For him, “teachers are deliberately being pauperised and we are wondering why. Why are they currently refusing to engage the teachers as a separate entity, just like they are engaging with doctors, as a special interest group?

For PTUZ, he underlined, the real crisis is that there is no collective bargaining happening.

“There is a ‘sham process’ through the Apex council created in 1997, whereby teachers are deliberately denied a chance to engage the government, just like everybody else has done,” Majongwe regretted. Teachers’ “incapacitation” comes from this particular front, he said.

He added that, while the Consumers Council stated that teachers need ZWL 21,000 (€221 approximately) to survive, at the same time, the government said that it has improved teachers’ salaries to ZWL 12,000 (€ 125 approximately).

Why do you try to belittle the teachers in front of the nation? PTUZ leader also asked. He was adamant that “if the Government were honest and sincere, they would have at least brought up a decent salary figure that matches their own ‘watchdog’, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe”.