Teachers reject ‘measly’ pay hike

BY RICHARD MUPONDE

TEACHERS have rejected the 45% to 50%  salary increment that government has offered them, saying it was inadequate as it will result in the lowest paid teacher earning $28 600 against a poverty datum line (PDL) of $40 000.

Instead, they demanded restoration of their 2018 salaries that were paid in United States dollars, when they earned between US$520 and US$550 per month, or its equivalent in local currency.

On Tuesday, government announced that civil servants’ salaries would be increased by 45% to 50%.

Government also promised to stagger wage increments for civil servants with increments that were supposed to have been effected in June, being delayed because the employer was reportedly facing financial constraints.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister Lovemore Matuke said the’ salary increment was part of the government’s commitment to addressing welfare issues of its workers.

He said government would continue to fine-tune the non-monetary benefits to its employees as it worked on creating a conducive environment for workers.

But teachers’ unions said the salary hike, which was way below PDL, was still measly. They said their salaries should be pegged in US dollars to match the high cost of living.

Zimbabwe National Teachers Union chief executive officer Manuel Nyawo said teachers could not be fooled by the word “increment” because technically, civil servants did not get any increment at all.

“Government must talk about restoration of our salaries to US$550 by a certain percentage through a roadmap. We can only talk of an increment after the full restoration of our US$550 salaries.  We could be earning US$800 by now,” he said.

Nyawo  said if the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority was making a surplus in its revenue collections, then government should prioritise paying its workers decently in pursuit of Vision 2030.

“We still hereby do expect it would have been backdated to June 2021. As far as we are concerned, we are owed in excess of the increment quantum for June and that the outstanding balance must be paid in earnest without any form of protracted negotiations,” he said.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Association of Zimbabwe president, Obert Masaraure said: “We will continue pushing for poverty datum line salaries in order to match the US$550 salary we used to get before government removed it. The increment remains below PDL and our pre-October 2018 salaries.”

Zimta secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said: “We applaud that move, but we must get back to the US$550 salaries. That’s the target, and we are not missing the ball here. We are focusing on the target. We will not lose focus on equating that which we are getting to the US dollar salaries.”

He said as long as industry increased prices of goods and services which then eroded incomes, then civil servants would continue to demand that they be paid US$ salaries.

Teachers have been threatening not to return to class when schools open for the second terms, whose date is yet to be announced, a move that will further disadvantage pupils who have been out of class for long periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over in November 2017 at the back of a military coup, teachers have continually been repeated strike demanding salary hikes.

Doctors and nurses have also downed tools on several occasions, demanding US dollar salaries.

Last month, Public Service minister Paul Mavima told NewsDay in Victoria Falls that government had no capacity to pay civil servants in United States dollars.

 Follow Richard on Twitter@muponderichard

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