Civil servants divided over strike

The Apex Council is divided on the course of action to take over civil servants’ salaries with some unions, led by the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), advocating confrontation with the government while others believe ongoing negotiations should be allowed to run their course.

PTUZ has threatened to go on strike if teachers’ salaries are not revised by June 21, but other members of the Apex Council are not supportive of the action.

PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou confirmed the divisions and accused Apex president Tendai Chikowore, who is also the president of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), of failing to convene a meeting so that civil servants take collective action.

Chikowore, however, said PTUZ was free to go on industrial action although she insisted the Apex Council had taken a common position to continue negotiations with government.

The Apex Council is composed of the Public Service Association, Zimta, PTUZ, Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe and College Lecturers’ Association.

“Apex has failed to sit so that we come up with a common position, but unfortunately we have some unions who give statements under the guise of representing Apex, yet they will be giving their unions’ position.

The president (Chikowore) has deliberately not called for a meeting so that we don’t have a common position,” Zhou said.

“The reality on the ground is that workers are suffering and are ready to take their fate into their own hands. As it is, we are sharpening the instruments of confrontation, but unfortunately we have some union leaders who are now dabbling in politics and are benefiting from the system.

“They can’t demonstrate against a system which they are benefiting from.”

Zhou said sources in government had informed his union that civil servants would not get a salary increment this month despite President Robert Mugabe’s pledge to ensure that they got a salary hike.

Chikowore confirmed that Apex was not supportive of the strike, saying union leaders, including those from PTUZ, had agreed to continue negotiations.

“I believe as leaders we shouldn’t call for a strike, because for a strike to be successful the members should be the driving force. We also don’t go on strike to politick or to be popular, we only go on strike to achieve an objective,” she said.
Chikowore said the government had requested for time to wind up their consultations, and Apex had agreed to give them the time as it did not want to accept a piecemeal offer because of deadline pressures.

She said she appreciated that President Mugabe promised an increment in June and said, when granted, they would want the salaries to be effected as from June.

“But if the PTUZ’s members say that want a strike, they can go ahead because it’s up to their members. I don’t dictate things and if the majority of the unions demand a strike and the members want it, that’s the course of action we will take,” she said.

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