'Teachers to strike on Monday'

HARARE - A rural teachers union yesterday said it is going ahead to stage a strike next week Monday over their unpaid 2016 bonuses.

This comes as State health institutions’ doctors have also threatened to down tools tomorrow, unless the hard-pressed President Robert Mugabe’s government improves their remuneration and working conditions.

In a statement, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) said “on February 20, 2017 we begin our job action demanding the release of bonus dates”.

“The employer has remained silent on details of when and how our outstanding 2016 bonus will be paid,” it said.

The protest, announced in a letter to the director of the Civil Service Commission by Artuz secretary general Robson Chere, is on the back of pleas by government that the workers must be patient and avoid industrial action.

Artuz said a strike authorisation had been approved by its national president Obert Masaraure.

“We have since notified our employer of our intention to express our disgust with the irresponsible behaviour of the employer,” the Artuz statement said.

“In line with Section 65 of the new Constitution, we have a right to engage in job action. That right cannot be withdrawn by an act or any statutory instrument, thus our strike is justifiable and legitimate.

“We urge all teachers to brace up for the 20th of February strike. The job action will send a clear message to the heartless employer who is also government that teachers’ issues and the welfare of all the poor must be prioritised or this country can become ungovernable.”

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya and Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira have told civil servants that the stone-broke government could only offer them three options in lieu of bonus in cash: the distribution of serviced stands where government pays 50 percent of the bonus in the form of land and the other half paid in staggered cash payments.

Government is also offering payment of bonuses in the form of a dividend where, instead of paying the workers directly, the cash will be invested in money-market instruments which will presumably yield a return down the line, an offer flatly rejected by government workers.

Mupfumira had said the three options promised in relation to bonuses were due to be discussed in their February 20 meeting.

Government has said it was disappointed by the strike decision of the workers.

Chinamasa has said government’s total expenditure demands currently stand at $942,5 million, and in respect of employment cost arrears, government owes $352,1 million, $69,9 million being arrears for the  December 2016 wage bill.                     

Last year was the first time government delayed paying bonuses.

Government has said that under its contract with the unions, the bonuses are not obligatory.

“Artuz also stands in solidarity with doctors who commence their strike on February 15,” the statement said, referring to doctors who are due to down tools over worsening employment conditions tomorrow.

“We will not be moved by the empty threats that we have been receiving from both the Civil Service Commission and desperate State agents. Todakudyawo (we also want to eat).”

Meanwhile, non-critical patients were being advised at Zimbabwe’s two largest State hospitals — Parirenyatwa and Harare Central — to return next week because doctors were unavailable, witnesses claimed.

Devoid of balance of payment support from the International Monetary Fund or foreign credit from customary Western donors, Harare administers a hand-to-mouth national spending plan, appropriating over 90 percent of its budget revenue on wages, which it is struggling to pay.

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