By Mutsa Makuvaza
THE opposition Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) party has dismissed the recently announced salary increment for Government workers and is demanding that the civil servants’ grievances be addressed in a holistic manner.
Government on Tuesday announced a 20 percent increase in the pay of its workers after teachers crippled the schools re-opening by going on a nationwide strike. However, several teachers’ unions have dismissed the salary increase as piecemeal with LEAD backing their protest.
In a statement, LEAD National Secretary of Information and Publicity Rosline Ncube questioned Government’s rationale to re-opem schools on 7 February without first addressing the teachers’ grievances.
“What’s the point of opening schools without reaching an agreement with teachers so that they report for duty to avoid strikes? As usual the Mnangagwa government does what it knows best that is to threaten its employees.
“Rather than threatening our beloved Teachers, how about just meeting their demands and having smooth flow in the education system? Failure to do so, we do not see the reason of schools opening.
“These teachers are also breadwinners of their families. They cannot continue going to their respective jobs if their income is not sustainable to support their families.
“We support them hundred hundred percent and they raised their genuine grievances in a proper way for them to be heard,” said Ncube.
She says LEAD’s position is that the 20% salary increment “is a mockery to teachers and a huge disappointment to the suffering civil servants”.
Said Ncube: “The 20% salary increment is diabolic. It is a disgrace and disrespect to the true liberators of mental slavery “teachers” and as LEAD we vow to stand in solidarity with all civil servants as thy demand decent salaries and to be the vanguard of people power in our quest to restore the dignity of all workers in Zimbabwe.
“We demand that the uncaring and unconcerned government must take reasonable measures to address one and for all the grievances bedevilling civil service.
“As a labour movement we are totally heartbroken by the heartlessreactuonary regimes unreasonable threats to duty conscious civil servants who are too incapacitated to report for duty and extremely poverty stricken to afford basic necessities of life because of the slave salaries which are way below the poverty datum line.”
Ncube said Government was aware of the skyrocketing rates and thus should remunerate teachers accordingly rather than wait until grievances mount.
The Linda Masarira-led party called for solidarity among stakeholders in order to stop the “unfair treatment” of teachers.
“United, we stand in solidarity with teachers and all civil servants. Nyika inovakwa nevene vakaguta kwete vanezhara.”
Meanwhile, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa said Government must fully re-dollarize and make its workers happy again.
“Government incentive measures to partially pay civil servants in USD is too little to guarantee a decent wage,” said Chamisa. “Pay full salaries in USD. Just fully dollarize.
“The market is now effectively dollarised. Our Citizens government will make workers happy again!”
In a related development, former Minister Walter Mzembi urged parents to take a leading role in advocating for better remuneration of teachers saying the educators play a key role to the nation.
Mzembi said Robert Mugabe’s Government paid “way more dollars” to teachers than what they obtain now under President Mnangagwa’s administration.
In 2018, teachers earned the equivalent of about $540 a month but that amount has been eroded by years of inflation, currently estimated at 60%, and the devaluation of Zimbabwe’s currency.
In response, Government has offered a 20% pay increase, payment of part of the teachers´ salaries in US dollars, and subsidies on the purchases of cars and houses. Government also threatened to cut the salaries of those not reporting for duty.
Unions have rejected the government offer, saying the proposed pay rise is too low. Union officials also said they doubt the government will deliver on the promises of cheaper houses and duty-free importation of cars, citing the failure of previous pledges. They added that teachers cannot afford to purchase cars, even with the subsidies.
“Teachers have been reduced to paupers, they are living in poverty. Teachers can´t even afford to pay school fees in the schools where they ordinarily teach,” Obert Masaraure, president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ).
“They need almost eight months of their salaries to pay for school fees alone. Teachers are fasting to send a child to school,” he said.
Zimbabwe has about 140,000 government school teachers for 4.6 million students.