CIVIL servants yesterday caved in and accepted government’s 41% salary increase offer, which will see the lowest paid teacher getting $19 000, while the lowest earning civil servant will get about $14 000 with effect from November 1.
BY RICHARD MUPONDE/MOSES MATENGA
They also accepted bonus payments which will be staggered until December.
This was confirmed by Apex Council spokesperson, David Dzatsunga, who said they had agreed to the government offer, which would include transport, housing and special representative allowances.
Last Friday, the government made a take it or leave it offer to its workers in an attempt to end the long-running strike by teachers.
Labour unions representing teachers had been demanding US$520 which
they used to get in 2018.
The teachers’ unions said the Apex council should declare a deadlock so that the matter could be taken for arbitration.
Dzatsunga said the Apex Council then asked for time to consult with its constituency before a meeting of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) which took place yesterday.
“We have signed an agreement today (Monday). We agreed that the government will pay 41% of basic salary, and all other allowances that include housing, transport, special allowances and representative allowances,” Dzatsunga said.
“So we said the government should go ahead and pay. Further to that it will pay bonuses which will be staggered from November to December. Of interest is the teachers’ salaries which will see teachers getting about $19 000 and the lowest paid civil servant, B1 getting about $14 000,” he said.
Dzatsunga said they agreed to meet again in January next year to come up with how they could restore the lost value of the 2018 salaries.
“We said, therefore, it’s best that the meeting takes place and that going forward the government should emphasise on the salaries of civil servants,” he said.
He said they agreed to sign the deal because they saw that the year was left with a few weeks, adding that if they had refused to do so, workers were not going to get an increment this year.
“Some had indicated that we declare a deadlock and go for arbitration but we saw that it takes months for the process to be concluded, to even mid-next year before a verdict is passed, which is not always in our favour. We saw that a deadlock is not in our favour and agreed to take the money which is there as we negotiate further.”
Teachers’ unions that have been pushing for a deadlock including the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe.
After the NJNC meeting, Zimta, the largest teachers’ organisation asked its members to go back to their workstations.
In a letter dated November 16 signed by its national secretary-general, Tapson Nganunu Sibanda, the teachers’ union said they were pushing for a deadlock but they were outvoted by other unions.
“It’s now common knowledge that Zimta presented a motion to Apex Council through a letter circulated this morning, a position that encouraged Apex Council and the NJNC to declare a deadlock and seek to refer the dispute of interest for arbitration.
“Zimta’s position was clear and advised that in the interim the employer pays the salary immediately so as to facilitate the return of teachers to the classroom. This position was rejected by the employer’s representatives and disturbingly by six other unions, meaning on the unions we were divided on the declaration of the deadlock,” Sibanda said.
He said six civil servants unions sided with the employer, while two other teachers’ unions supported Zimta’s position, which resulted in Zimta being outvoted, and thereafter, six other unions led by the Apex Council went ahead and signed the agreement, which binds Zimta as a member of the NJNC to submit to the offer.
“Now therefore, we advise our members to start returning to stations as required. Members resident in their stations or within the boundaries could start active re-engagement with learners this week, while those requiring travelling to distant stations could do so after collecting their November salaries,” Zimta said.
Meanwhile, main opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa blasted government for bullying teachers and politicking over salary grievances at the expense of millions of students.
Chamisa claimed that he had visited rural schools in Buhera, Chivhu, Gutu and other areas, where the situation was dire pointing to government neglect of schoolchildren.
“Children are not learning. They are being sent back home and education is now a neglected area, forsaken and forgotten,” Chamisa told NewsDay.
“We can’t play politics with the teachers’ needs because we are destroying our security, we are destroying the nation. It can’t be business as usual and threats, abuse, arrogance, terror coercion are all instruments of the uncaring and are all instruments of the unconscious.”
He continued: “There can’t be a school without a teacher as there can’t be education without an educator.”
Chamisa said the government should immediately deal the teachers’ plight as failure to do so would result in a catastrophe.
“They must fix the teachers’ concerns in order for us to fix our schools and our education. In fact, we need to fix our nation.
“You can never replace brains with muscles. Education needs real attention. We are getting cases of early childhood pregnancies and all these are signs of a sick society and this has to be addressed. Stop bullying teachers. Education must not be allowed to sink. Engage teachers and address their concerns, restore the dignity of the teaching profession,” he said.