The Sunday Mail
Debra Matabvu and Veronica Gwaze
Government has come up with a package to improve teachers’ salaries and working conditions, and the majority of unions representing teaching staff have pledged not to disrupt the start of the second school term of 2018.
Schools open on Tuesday, and some opposition-aligned unions have been inciting their members to go on strike.
The Sunday Mail has established that Government “highly likely to effect a percentage increase” in salaries and reintroduce an adjusted vacation leave facility, while also incorporating teachers into a State housing scheme.
Last week, Government and teachers’ unions engaged the Zimbabwe National Elders Forum to mediate a resolution ahead of schools’ opening.
The parties meet again tomorrow.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima said, “I am not taking a proactive role in the issue, you have to talk to Minister (of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes Simbarashe) Mubengegwi for further clarity. However, I can say we met with the Elders and paved a way forward with the issue.
“We are happy with the progress made so far in addressing the concerns to avert the intended strike.
“Teachers wanted a 100 percent salary increment. However considering the budget, it is already strained, we cannot afford to address all the demands to be paid in cash.
“Thus we have suggested to accommodate their demands in both cash and kind terms. We will also look at specific allowances and make adjustments on vacation leave issue.
“In addition, interested teachers will be offered accommodation under the Command programme; and in terms of allowances, Government will make appropriate offers to meet their demands.”
Minister Mumbengegwi, who is also responsible for administration of the public service, could not be reached for comment.
ZNEF urged stressed the importance of dialgue and cautioned that strikes were detrimental to national peace and development.
“It should be made clear that while the demands are being looked into, definitely they will be addressed, but what we cannot afford is a strike especially at a time like this. (Towards elections) a strike is detrimental to national peace, which is not what the nation needs,” the Forum said.
The Apex Council, the umbrella body for civil servants’ representatives, said its members would report for duty on Tuesday.
Apex Council president Mrs Cecilia Alexander said: “We are informing all civil servants that negotiations with Government are still underway and we will be meeting Government on Monday 7 May 2018.
“We are anticipating to get positive response from the concerns which have not been addressed for a long time.
“This is feedback to civil servants in general that negotiations are still underway and that they should expect some feedback on Monday. The Apex Council has not called for a strike.”
The Zimbabwe National Educators Union (ZINEU), which houses 12 education unions, also urged members not to embark on any industrial action until all routes had been exhausted.
In a statement last week, ZINEU secretary-general Mr Enock Paradzayi asked members to report for work when schools opened and await further communication from the union leadership.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe is at the forefront of agitating for a strike.
“As it is now, we are continuing with the strike arrangements unless our demands are met when we meet Government on Monday. We hope the meeting yields something tangible,” said PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou.
According to 2015 statistics, Zimbabwe has about 100 000 public sector teachers.
Recently, public sector nurses went on a nationwide strike that resulted in much death and morbidity, despite Government addressing their grievances.
As a result, around 5 000 nurses were dismissed for participating in the illegal job action.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Association quickly abandoned that route and asked its members to try and get their jobs back.
The association has also written an apology to Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga.