NEGOTIATIONS between teachers and government over salaries could hit a snag, with the employer expressing fear that further salary adjustments could trigger inflation and reverse the gains made by government on price stabilisation.
Teachers, on the other hand, abandoned classes when schools reopened last Monday for final examinations, demanding not less than US$520 in salaries, a position which Labour minister Paul Mavima said was not feasible.
Addressing a post-Cabinet Press briefing yesterday, Mavima said negotiations with teachers were still ongoing on top of a 40% cost of living adjustment effected last week and US$75 COVID-19 allowances extended to December.
“The unions must be reasonable and any salary negotiations should not destabilise the economy and reverse the gains that have already been made by government in stabilising prices and containing inflation,” he said.
Mavima met the teachers on Monday to try to persuade them to go back to work, and assured them he would take their grievances to Cabinet for deliberations.
But after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “With regard to the re-opening of schools, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is monitoring the situation and updating the Public Service Commission daily, while awaiting the outcome of the ongoing National Joint Negotiating Council talks.
“Priority training of teaching and non-teaching staff on COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures for Phase 1 is underway in all the provinces, while logistical arrangements for Phase 2 staff training are being organised.”
She said government noted the anxieties expressed by learners, their parents/guardians, as well as teachers, on the limited lesson time before public examinations and the “ministry has come up with guidelines to ensure effective care and support for both teaching and learning, effective catch-up learning, remedial teaching, and preparations for examinations.”
After the Monday meeting, joint teachers’ unions issued a statement expressing their displeasure over government’s failure to address their grievances.
They said they told the ministers, including Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema, of their concerns over disparities in salaries for government workers in favour of the State security departments.
The teachers claimed the police and soldiers were earning between $12 000 and $20 000, while the educators, nurses and other civil servants earned less than
They vowed to continue with the work boycott until government has adjusted their salaries.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said teachers spurned the government offers for land during the three-hour meeting and, instead, called on their employer to pay a living wage.
“We have just come from a meeting that lasted about three and half hours and we engaged Mavima, Mathema and some other senior government officials,” Majongwe said.
“The good thing is up to now, all unions are speaking with a united voice. We are not compromising, we have not capitulated, we have not betrayed the cause … Our members are not on strike, we are incapacitated and our point is very clear, we are not going to settle for anything less than what we were earning in October 2018.”
Teachers were earning on average US$520 during the multi-currency regime, but their salaries have been whittled down by inflation to around US$30 to US$35 per month.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association spokesperson Daisy Zambuko said teachers’ current salaries were not enough to cover basic transport, accommodation and even fees for their children.
“We are not sure of what exactly it’s meant to do because it’s way too insignificant to be called a salary, not even enough to cover teachers transport and right now, we are not in the mood of subsidising the employer. So we cannot call it a salary because it’s still insignificant to make teachers change their minds and go back to work,” she said.