By Admore Marambanyika
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has condemned the arbitrary suspension of striking teachers by government calling for their unconditional reinstatement and addressing of their key demands.
In a statement, ZCTU Secretary General Japhet Moyo said the government was wrong because it did not follow due processes in reaching that decision.
“What is more worrying is for a government that just wakes up and suspends workers without following due processes. The laws of this country are very clear and of all institutions, the Government ought to know better. We strongly condemn such a knee-jerk approach to a national crisis. It is not a secret that workers are suffering from the economic hardships spurred by the ever devaluing Zimbabwean dollar. The devaluation of salaries was as a result of government policy through the promulgation of SI 33 of 2019 that distorted wages and the government must, through the proper channels, address its mistakes and restore the value of wages and salaries,” said Moyo.
He added that the ZCTU was fully supporting the teachers action arguing that it was not a crime to demand a living wage and decent working conditions.
“The ZCTU gives its full support to the teachers because they are fighting a genuine cause. The government should take responsibility for downgrading a once noble profession, which was the envy for many. Teachers used to be venerated in society but now have become the laughing stock of the community. We need to restore the dignity of both the teachers and the classroom,” he said.
Moyo condemned the military style of handling civil matters and demanded civility in dealing with such issues as well as the reversal of the pronouncement without prejudice to teachers.
“The government should also respect workers’ rights to freedom of expression, collective bargaining processes as well as social dialogue. As a labour body we reiterate our position that for the time being, the solution to problems and the only inescapable solution is for the government and all employers to pay a living wage and other benefits in United States Dollars,” he said.
Teachers downed tools at the opening of the first term citing incapacitation to report for duty owing to depressed salaries. They are demanding that the government pays them a minimum of US$540-00 per month and also to be exempted from paying school fees for their children.
The government responded by offering a 20 percent salary adjustment with effect from January and a US$100-00 salary component with effect from March but the educators rejected the offer insisting on their demand to be met.
Teachers unions have roundly supported the strike action and have vowed not to return to the classrooms until their demands are met.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe advised its members; “We call on all teachers not to report for work until government pays a living wage. We call on all parents to stop sending children to school until government starts respecting public education. Azisheeee!!!!!”
In response, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe instructed its lawyers to file a court application to oppose the government directive.
“We take note of this alleged suspension from which is null and void as it is not our employer. We were aware that intimidation strategies will be employed and we already have a back plan. We have instructed our lawyers to file an urgent application challenging the suspension of teachers by the Minister of Education. While we fight the legal battle we urge teachers to remain resolute. Only USD 540 will push us back to the classroom #SaveOurEducationZw.”
Constitutional law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku also condemned the government decision in a tweet.
“Teachers cannot be suspended from work by a Govt Minister: they are employed by the PSC. Even the PSC itself has no power whatsoever to effect a blanket and mass suspension. The purported suspensions are unacceptable. Govt must dialogue with teachers' unions and address issues,” said Madhuku.