SCHOOLS are next week set to open for the first term of this year amid uncertainty over whether teachers will report for duty, as government has failed to respond to their demands for better salaries and conditions of living.
Various teacher unions have already sent circulars to their members, advising them not to report for duty on Tuesday next week for the schools’ opening until government has made a commitment to improve their working conditions.
Among other demands, teachers want to be paid in United States dollars or, at least, a salary above the poverty datum line, as most of them have been turned into paupers because of their poor salaries.
We implore government to immediately act and dialogue with its employees to avoid a strike action similar to the one by medical doctors, which has virtually crippled the public health sector.
A strike by teachers might have a domino effect and prompt other poorly paid civil servants to join in, as their income, just like the rest of Zimbabweans, has been heavily eroded over the past months due to failure by government to address the currency crisis and a hike in the prices of basis commodities, among many other issues.
The government should, therefore, address that impasse, which, if not dealt with holistically, will likely trigger similar job actions by other health professionals such as nurses, who work closely with doctors.
It is only through dialogue that strikes by civil servants can be addressed. Right now, civil servants will not understand that Treasury has no money to address their concerns as long as government continues to splash on luxuries such as expensive vehicles for ministers, traditional leaders and other senior officials.
Only recently, our legislators managed to arm-twist Treasury into releasing an additional $40 million to cater for their welfare in this year’s national budget and we hear some of them were now demanding three-course meals and top-of-the-range cars to go with their statuses.
It certainly sets a bad precedence for our MPs to extort such an amount of money for them to approve the 2019 national budget, as our civil servants are also now making similar demands for them to go to work.
Government should, therefore, not wait until the last minute to negotiate with civil servants. Austerity measures should not be just for the poorly paid civil servants, but also for our ministers and MPs who continue to splash a lot of money on luxuries and sell each other virtually new state-of-the-art vehicles for a song.
The government must come up with a holistic approach to resolve problems in the health and education sectors, including the rest of the civil service to avoid these debilitating strikes, which cost the country millions of dollars in working hours and in the case of doctors, lives.