Multi-unionism weakens teachers' bargaining power

HARARE - Zimbabwean school teachers are plagued by multi-unionism, with five unions in the same bargaining environment in direct competition to recruit and represent the same teachers.

This comes as government last month registered another teachers’ union, the Professional Educators’ Union of Zimbabwe (Peuz), formed by disgruntled former members of the four existing teachers’ unions.

Peuz’s coming on board brings to five, the number of unions purporting to represent the interests of the country’s educators who have over the years failed to convince government to award them better working conditions.

Multi-unionism, in which several unions co-exist within the same bargaining environment, is a common and enduring feature of school sector labour relations in Zimbabwe.

In 2012, rural teachers formed a splinter union, the Zimbabwe Rural Teachers’ Association, which claims to cater for rural teachers’ specific interests.

They too accused the existing unions and government of downplaying their grievances including discrepancies in incentives given to their counterparts in urban schools, as well as harassment by politicians during election campaigns.

Wilson Makanyaire, the interim president of Peuz, told the Daily News yesterday that the ministry of Public Service had on February 22 issued his organisation with a certificate to operate as a trade union representing teachers.

Makanyaire doubles up as the MDC organising secretary for Mashonaland West Province and is the founding secretary of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).

He said the new kid on the block was a manifestation of teachers’ frustration at the way leaders of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), PTUZ and Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ) were neglecting their members.

“We are going to fill the gap that has been created when the people who are leading the unions chose to abandon the struggle of the teacher to pursue self-enrichment projects,” Makanyaire said.

“Peuz will not be charging exorbitant affiliation fees such as those being charged by the existing labour bodies, which have over the years failed to bargain pay that is above the poverty datum line.”

Makanyaire said his organisation would champion the struggle for improved working conditions and incentives for teachers, who have been perennially marginalised by the government.

He said the new labour body had already applied to be an affiliate of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, adding they had already set up national, provincial and district structures to spearhead the membership drive across the country.

Nicholas Goche, the Public Service minister was unreachable for comment.

Zimta, the country’s biggest teacher representative body, however, welcomed the new kid on the block.

Sifiso Ndlovu, the Zimta chief executive officer said he hoped that Peuz would add value to the teachers’ struggle by fulfilling the mandate given to them by their constituency.

He however, dismissed claims that they were living lavishly at the expense of teachers.

“When you analyse issues from a position of ignorance, you are bound to make baseless accusations which cannot be proved by empirical evidence,” Ndlovu said.

“Maybe because they think there is a lot to gain by representing workers, they are motivated by greed when they form splinter unions.”

Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of PTUZ, said  everyone was welcome, “but it should be borne in mind that assuming political office and leading workers are not the same.”

“Pulling crowds at political rallies may not necessarily translate into members and history will certainly teach them that lesson,” Majongwe told the Daily News.

Comments (1)

yes we need to go it alone teachers. our fight is different from the rest. we work with the most important people in the society

s - 5 March 2014

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