TEACHERS have this week demanded to be paid US$1 500 monthly and threatened not to return to work when schools open for the second term next Tuesday if government fails to meet their demand.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) this week said the minimum salary for a teacher should be US$1 500 monthly, down from the US$ 2 200 they demanded last year.
According to a declaration of Zimtaâ€™s 28thÂ annual national conference held in Bulawayo at the weekend, the teachers resolved to embark on industrial action.
â€œEducators will not report for the opening of the second term as from May 2009 until there is a significant improvement on their remuneration in foreign currency,â€ reads the declaration.
Speaking at the same conference, Zimta president Tendai Chikowore said teachers have â€œbeen taken for a ride for too longâ€ and would not report for work unless their demands are met.
Teachers, like other civil servants, are paid a US$100 allowance.
â€œWe (teachers) have been taken for a ride for too long now and itâ€™s time we should act,â€ Chikowore said. â€œThe government failed dismally to honour its promise of giving us a substantial salary, now itâ€™s our time to take action.â€
She said it was â€œthoughtlessâ€ for teachers to return to work in February without tangible assurance from the government for better salaries.
â€œNow we are stuck with the US$100 monthly allowance and we are without pay,â€ Chikowore said. â€œWe are incapacitated and the only exit plan we have is to down tools.â€
Teachers were on strike for the better part of last year and only returned to class when Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai promised them remuneration in foreign currency.
PTUZÂ secretary-general, Raymond Majongwe, said the organisation was â€œvery disappointedâ€ that the government failed to honour its promise of paying teachers in foreign currency.
Instead, he said, the government was â€œwastingâ€ money in retreats and allocating ministers and MPs vehicles at the expense of the civil servantsâ€™ plight.
â€œWe are dealing with a blithe (sic) government here that opted to go on a spending spree in the Victoria Falls, and then came back to us claiming that the countryâ€™s coffers are empty.
How are we going to believe them if they are acting in such a manner?â€ asked the militant Majongwe.
â€œAs teachers we have taken a very bold stance not to report for duty until government gives us a reasonable salary.â€
The Minister of Education, Sport, Art and Culture, David Coltart, told the Zimta conference that the countryâ€™s coffers were empty, hence it was not possible to hike teachersâ€™ salaries.
Coltart said government had the intention to pay teachers a minimum of US$500 monthly.
BY HENRY MHARA