The five-day strike by civil servants yesterday paralysed the country’s education system, and left several other government departments barely functional after workers heeded calls for industrial action to force a review of their salaries.
Last night, the Apex Council — the government employees’ umbrella body — in a statement said:
“In order to build on the momentum gathered to date, Apex Council will do picketing tomorrow (today) at a few government offices, schools and colleges which have remained pockets of resistance. This method of stoking the fuel of the strike shall demonstrate the seriousness and resolve that workers take on bread and butter issues.”
The situation could worsen if the Health Services Board fails to agree with the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (Zina) regarding their salary demands.
Yesterday, the strike action saw most teachers countrywide adhering to the Apex Council call, while skeletal staff manned some government departments.
The Apex Council last week urged its members to go on a five-day industrial action after government reportedly dithered on reviewing their salaries upwards in line with the poverty datum line.
Zimbabwe’s estimated 235 000 civil servants, some of whom are earning around $250 per month, are demanding at least $538.
Public Service minister Lucia Matibenga last night admitted there was no solution as yet.
“They (Apex Council) came to my office to appeal for my intervention and I said I would do so in two ways to make sure that government has a statement on 2012 salaries and also for them to have a meeting with the National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC). Government has done a position paper and they have been called for a meeting on Wednesday (tomorrow),” Matibenga said.
A survey by NewsDay yesterday showed teachers, had downed tools and children spent the whole day out of classes.
At some schools such as Mbizi Primary in Highfield, Allan Wilson, Glen View 3 and Glen Norah High 1, to mention but a few, no lessons took place.
The situation was the same in Bulawayo where some teachers at Eveline Girls High, Milton Junior and Mzilikazi High, among others, supported the strike action.
Children could be seen trooping back home or playing in school grounds.
However, at the Passport Office in Harare the situation appeared normal, albeit at a snail’s pace, prompting the public to conclude employees were on a go-slow.
“They don’t operate at such a slow pace here. They should either fully join the strike or seriously get down to work,” said one passport seeker who refused to be named.
In Bulawayo the registrar’s offices were also operational. Nurses had not joined in the strike by yesterday as they said they were still waiting for a directive from Zina on the way forward by the end of today.
“We heard that nurses have their own strike and we are waiting for the signal from the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association to begin our own strike,” a Mpilo Central Hospital nurse said.
Nurses at Parirenyatwa Hospital also said they were waiting for the outcome of the meeting today.
Progressive Teachers’ Union Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe yesterday said the strike had succeeded.
He, however, said the weeklong industrial action would not yield any results “as long as there was no direct confrontation with the Head of State”.
“The President and Prime Minister have still not said anything about our letter (demanding an urgent solution) although our position still stands that having a meeting with a junior minister will not yield results. We are now just waiting to hear from the principals.”
Majongwe said the meeting to be held between the Apex Council and the NJNC tomorrow was unlikely to produce results.
He dismissed allegations of a political link to the ongoing civil servants’ strike as “political propaganda”.
This follows reports MDC–T feared Zanu PF had hijacked the strike and was using some of its ministers, instead of addressing the concerns of the civil servants as the inclusive government.
“We are not being sent by anyone to call for this strike, this strike is a genuine labour issue and such allegations are simply political propaganda,” he said.
Last week’s one-day strike reportedly had a 70% success rate.