HARARE - Zimbabwean teachers have threatened to go on a nationwide strike as soon as schools open if their demand for a basic pay of $1 000 is not met.
Teachers’ unions have been threatening to pursue industrial action over low salaries, after government proposed an inflation-adjusted salary increment in 2014.
The boycott, which could kick off when schools open next week, comes at a crucial time in the academic calendar.
Takavafira Zhou, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, said teachers and civil servants were tired of unfulfilled promises by government.
“We are demanding a pay rise to $1 000 for teachers who have been in the field for a while and $690 for those who will be starting,” Zhou said.
“We need this to be done before schools open this January.”
He said teachers and other civil servants have lost trust in the government’s negotiating team.
He said they held a fruitless meeting with government representatives on December 23 and called on President Mugabe to own up to the promise he made ahead of elections.
“We don’t have trust and faith in the negotiating team from government that we met last December,” Zhou said.
“The team cannot make decisions and it’s useless to negotiate with them as they will have to go back and consult the (real) decisions makers. We now want those who make decision or Mugabe should simply own up to his promise. He said civil servants will get an increment if Zanu PF wins elections and that’s what happened.”
PTUZ warned of a crippling job action if their demand was ignored by government.
“We are sick and tired of these constant negotiations yielding nothing and we now know that the only language our government understands is that of industrial actions and we will definitely do that if we do not get what we have demanded,” he said.
On average, teachers in Zimbabwe earn a basic salary of between $300 and $480 per month, but the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a food basket for an average family of five now costs $540 a month.
Zhou said teachers had been taken for a ride by government for a long time and warned that 2014 will be a different year.
“We have been patient as teachers and civil servants while government took us for granted over the years,” Zhou said.
“This is a new year and government must expect new things from us. We are going to be more rigorous in demanding what we deserve, therefore we urge government to engage us soon or we do it our way.”
In a recent statement, Japhet Moyo, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), secretary-general, said even the civil servants that were promised wage increases that match the PDL seem to have been taken along a garden path as Patrick Chinamasa, the Finance minister, made only token promises in his national Budget.
“The ZCTU believes this is the worst Budget ever in living memory, and unfortunately, the Zanu PF-controlled Parliament will be forced to approve it, otherwise in true democracies, such budgets would be thrown out the window,” Moyo said in the statement.