Teachers mull strike over salaries

Itai Dzamara

TEACHERS plan to go on strike at the beginning of next term to protest the results of a job evaluation exercise implemented recently by government, the Zimbabwe Independent has gathered.

The results of the exercise have been described by both the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers Union (PTUZ) as “fundamentally flawed”. They said the salaries paid out this month were way below what President Mugabe had promised.

The two unions said their members would strike to press for better remuneration. Under the current government labour regulations it is illegal for teachers to go on strike.

Zimtasecretary-general Dennis Sinyolo said his organisation had written to the Public Service Commission expressing dissatisfaction over the job evaluation exercise.

“The majority of our members are not happy with the results of the exercise,” said Sinyolo. “We have already written to the PSC expressing our dissatisfaction.

“The PSC ignored all our recommendations. The grading system did not acknowledge the number of years teachers have been in the field,” he said.

“For example, a teacher who has been practicing for five years has been lumped together with someone who has just started. In addition, the salary levels after the exercise are still far from satisfactory,” he said

PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the cut off point for teachers’ salaries should be $500 000 taking into account the hyperinflationary environment in the country.

“Teachers are not happy with the new salaries. The euphoria created by Mugabe’s promises has vanished as the reality now dawns on teachers,” said Majongwe.

“The minimum demand we are calling for is $500 000. What the exercise has awarded is what we were demanding in January this year. Inflation has swept away the increments. And, add tax to it, it comes to nothing,” he said

After the job evaluation exercise, teachers’ salaries now average between $230 000 and $280 000. Before the evaluation teachers’ salaries ranged between $120 000 and $150 000.

However, teachers have complained that income tax of about 45% leaves them poorer than before in the face of the high cost of living.

Both unions confirmed this week that their members were ready for action although consultations are still going on.

“Our members have already expressed their displeasure. We are waiting for the PSC to respond after which we will consult our members on action to take,” said Sinyolo.

“This government has amply demonstrated that it is arrogant,” said Majongwe. “For example, the ministers recently awarded themselves 1 000% increments backdated to January. Teachers have no choice but to take action. A decision will soon be made after consulting all members. If members call for a strike, so be it,” he said.