BY VENERANDA LANGA
TEACHERS’ unions yesterday said they were planning to go on strike if government does not urgently revise their salaries, as frustrated civil servants demanded a minimum of $3 000 per month after the central bank last week introduced a new virtual currency, which it devalued by 60% to the United States dollar.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe yesterday warned that teachers planned to cripple the education sector if their salary demands were not met.
He said the introduction of the real time gross settlement dollar (ZWL$) had further impoverished teachers and left them struggling to survive.
Majongwe blasted the pegging of the consumer bread basket for a family of six at $800 per month by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), which he said was understated.
The unionist said this exposed the CCZ as an institution dancing to the whims of government.
“If anything, the RTGS$ pegged at 1:2,5 has further impoverished teachers, and further, the current CCZ family of six bread basket pegged at $800 is a fraud. We feel, as a union, that the figure cannot be less than $2 000 after we made our calculations,” Majongwe said.
“The truth is that six people cannot survive on $800 per month, and that is a scandal, which shows that the CCZ is dancing to the whims of government and is not telling the truth and is lying to the people.”
Contacted for comment, CCZ executive director Rosemary Siyachitema could not entertain questions on the issue, saying: “I am driving from Mutare and I need to get to Harare.”
Majongwe said the PTUZ made their calculations and came up with a family of six bread basket figure of $2 000 based on the rises in fuel prices, goods and services such as education and health and hikes in food prices.
He said the $340 salary being paid to teachers was reached using the 1:1 rate, and it was pegged in United States dollars, which later suddenly changed into bond notes.
“This $340 salary was pegged in 2013, and now six years later, you cannot say that RTGS$500 is enough for teachers. Government must realise that if there is no pay, there will be no work and they must engage the teachers now,” Majongwe said.
He said the October 2018 demand of $1 700 had already been superseded by last week’s monetary policy statement, which introduced the new rate of 1:2,5 and it now meant that teachers needed to be paid a salary of more than $3 000 per month.
“If they do not accede to this demand of $3 000, then government must realise that they are killing education because teachers will be moonlighting and doing other things, instead of teaching and definitely there will be another strike,” Majongwe said, adding that the educators now needed to speak with one voice and restrategise, instead of unions betraying each other.
In an earlier statement, PTUZ demanded an urgent meeting with government and a stop to victimisation of teachers by the Public Service Commission.
“We can promise that this school term will not end on good terms if the government continues to bury its head in the sand and declares war on its workers. Teachers are suffering and they have been patriotic enough. Forewarned is forearmed,” the union said.
“We expect government and its functionaries to be humane, sober and honest. We did not suspend our strike from a position of weakness, and government should not test our resolve. We have the capacity to cripple the education sector.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu also concurred that teachers now needed a minimum salary of $3 000.
“We deserve to have an increment and restoration of our purchasing power. This means we are now going back to the negotiation table with a figure of more than $3 000. We were told that in April, they will increase salaries by $120, which is not enough and will not motivate employees,” he said.
He said the $800 peg as the family bread basket was erroneous and probably calculated using the old rate of 1:1 ratio.
“Unless the CCZ says that they pegged the family basket at $800 in US$, then it would make sense,” Ndlovu said.
But unlike PTUZ, Ndlovu said Zimta would need to consult its membership before entertaining any thoughts of a fresh strike.
Apex Council organising secretary Charles Chinosengwa said civil servants would hold an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the issue of erosion of their salaries and to come up with new demands.
He also said they would not settle for anything less than $3 000.
“We are also working on figures for our family of six bread basket taking into cognisance the price hikes. The $1 700 minimum wage we suggested in October last year is no longer realistic,” he said.
“We will be suggesting different allowances like head of department allowance, senior master, infant school teachers, teachers specialising on students with disabilities, sports, workshop and examination, and several other allowances.”
Chinosengwa said it was high time government considered incentivising civil servants by including them in programmes like command agriculture.