Majority teachers union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) has declared that it is going ahead with its planned collective job action on 5th February 2019. This follows several meetings with government at the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) which seem to be taking too long to break the deadlock.
In a statement dated 29th January 2019, ZIMTA President Richard Gundane says, “Having afforded dialogue a chance to resolve the grievances that were raised by our members inter alia erosion of purchasing power of their salaries and the rise of prices of basic commodities and services; Alarmed by the fact that the government is offering meagre salary adjustments… the purported cushioning allowance offered allegedly from the President is far from addressing the economic challenges facing our general membership… Further having, through our umbrella body, the Apex Council, given sufficient legal notice to embark on collective job action on 8th January 2019 which notice lapsed on Friday 25th January 2019; Now therefore it is declared that our members shall exercise their right in terms of section 65 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013 by embarking on collective job action (strike) commencing on 05th February 2019.”
Those who have been following developments would know that there was an NJNC meeting on Monday 28th January 2019. Another one was slated for Wednesday 30th January. Clearly, ZIMTA has lost faith in the ongoing negotiations. Perhaps, the negotiations have taken too long. To put things into perspective, civil servants are demanding about RTGS $1 700 for the lowest paid. Government’s highest offer is around $500 which is a 19% increase on the current salaries. The gap is still too big. Government has also attempted to spruce up its deal by offering a cushioning allowance for the next three months. Talk of residential stands being offered to civil servants has also been thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, civil servants are adamant this is not enough. They want more money in their pockets, and they want it now. Government is only prepared to carry out a full cost of living adjustment in April. Things are not looking good at all.
It is interesting to note that throughout the month, ZIMTA has been receiving solidarity messages from fellow unions around the world. Such messages have been received from the Tanzania Teachers Union, Swedish Teachers Union (Lararforbundet), Education International (Regional and International) Offices as well as the Botswana Teachers Union. Ironically, many teachers have left Zimbabwe to go and teach abroad where salaries and working conditions are better. If the current impasse is not broken, we may see more teachers following suit. This will add on to the massive brain drain that the country continues to experience.
We await the next NJNC meeting hoping that it will bring a positive outcome. Teachers have not been fully productive since schools opened citing incapacitation. This is the same for other civil servants. A solution should be found soon.