It is getting interesting. Two of the largest teacher associations, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) have teamed up to declare that the February 5th strike will go ahead as planned. After the last National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting on 30th January 2019 failed to bring an improved offer, divisions between civil servants’ representatives surfaced. The Apex Council advised that are going to wait for further negotiations. However, the teachers are having none of it. Their strike is definitely on next week.
Zimta and PTUZ released a joint statement on 31st January 2019 confirming that they have agreed on the following;
“1. That starting from the 5th of February 2019, all our members shall exercise their right in terms of section 65 (3) of the constitution of Zimbabwe (No. 20) Act, 2013 by embarking on collective job action (strike)
- This essentially means our members will be withdrawing their services / labour and will not be reporting for duty with effect from the said date.”
Surprising, there is no mention of the Apex Council in this statement. The teachers are ready to go it alone.
It must be noted that conflicting statements came after the last NJNC meeting. The Apex Council was clear that they want to give negotiations a chance. In addition, they said that they feared that going on strike now may be misconstrued as a political move and politicians may hijack their cause. On the other hand, Zimta and PTUZ rubbished those sentiments. For them, their members are incapacitated hence the need to go on strike. PTUZ Secretary General Raymond Majongwe went as far as saying that their counterparts in the Apex Council are accusing them of being opposition agents bent on destabilising the country. Meanwhile, government seems to be focussing on non-monetary incentives like residential stands and housing schemes. Their last monetary offer was around 18% and this has not been reviewed upwards. The civil servants’ position is that they want at least $1700 for the lowest paid.
It will be interesting to note how things will pan out in the next few days. Do teachers have a legal leg to stand on given that it is the Apex Council that gave the 14-day strike notice and not the teachers themselves? On their part, the teachers may argue that they fall under the Apex Council and that notice therefore included them. By releasing a joint statement, the teacher’s unions are presenting a united front, a louder voice. No one knows if government will be moved to negotiate with teachers separately though. The chances of that happening are slim.
As expected, parents are worried that their children will continue to lose valuable lesson time. In all fairness, the negotiations have taken far too long, almost a month. We may be in for another long wait like what we saw with the junior doctors. We hope not.