BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has called on the government to urgently initiate a Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) meeting to review salary levels across all sectors of the economy as workers’ earning power continues to be eroded by inflation.
The TNF brings together government, business and labour to negotiate key socio-economic matters.
ZCTU’s demand comes after the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) met in Harare yesterday where the government tabled the same offer it extended to teachers early this week.
Government maintained its offer of a 20% salary hike backdated to January, US$100 in hard currency from March and payment of school fees for three children capped at $20 000 among other monetary benefits.
Civil servants pleaded for the US$100 to be backdated to January and also their employer to lift its suspension order on teachers although nurses supported the strike action.
There is a groundswell of discontent among workers, the majority of whom are agitating for payment in United States dollars as the local currency continues to lose ground against the rising cost of living.
The labour unrest has seen teachers refuse to report for duty since Monday when schools opened for the first term. Government on Thursday responded by suspending them without pay for three months.
But the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) yesterday hit back and dragged Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu to the High Court challenging the validity of her suspension order.
ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said Zimbabwe could face civil unrest over workers’ unresolved salary grievances.
“We have been advocating for the payment of salaries in US dollars. We might have the issue of teachers at the top because of their suspension, but just like the Sarajevo incident, the teachers’ issue has unearthed the bigger underlying issues around wages in Zimbabwe,” Moyo said.
In a letter dated February 8, 2022 seen by NewsDay Weekender and sent to the Labour ministry, ZCTU said a TNF could not be avoided given the high cost of living where an average family of six now requires at least $80 00 per month to cover just the basics.
“ZCTU notes with concern the pathetic wage levels that workers are obtaining in Zimbabwe and would like this matter to be attended to by the TNF as a matter of urgency,” Moyo’s letter read.
“While we appreciate that the issue of adequate PDL (poverty datum line) wages has been seized with TNF in the past, it is our considered view and plea that we convene the TNF to deliberate on this matter with the view to resolve it before it jeopardises the relationship that exists amongst social partners.”
Meanwhile, in an urgent chamber application filed at the High Court yesterday, Artuz president Obert Masaraure said Ndlovu had no locus standi to suspend striking teachers as that was the mandate of the Public Service Commission.
“There is no provision giving the respondent such powers as she purports to exercise or suspend all officials within its ministry unilaterally. The provision is clear as to what happens and who should give effect to a suspension notice,” Masaraure said.
“For example, senior grade members, who are part of the applicant, are prejudiced in having to be suspended by an order of the minister when in fact; the law provides for them a different disciplinary authority. The Press statement of the respondent is, therefore, manifestly illegal and ought to be set aside.”
Masaraure, through his lawyer from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said Ndlovu’s order could not possibly, under any circumstances, be said to be fair because it presupposes that all failure to return to work by all teachers was a wilful act of misconduct with no lawful excuse.
He added: “Although section 65 of the regulations provide for a departure from the provisions above, it is only the commission which can so authorise such departure or undertake such departure and not the Respondent on her own volition. Further, such departure is put to a test of whether or not it will result in substantial miscarriage of justice for it to pass as a valid departure.
“There is no doubt that there will be serious miscarriage of justice when tens of thousands of teachers are suspended without following proper procedures with just one blanketed notice on such a wide scale.”
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