President Emmerson Mnangagwa has agreed to restore civil servants’ salaries to pre-October 2018 levels of US$540 per month but at gradual pace with civil servants wanting the amount at the end of this month, according to deliberations of a meeting held last week.
The meeting which came on the backdrop of a strike by teachers was attended by Public Service Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima, ministry officials, representatives from the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions.
Apex Council deputy secretary-general Gibson Mushangu told Business Times that the President indicated that he was fully aware of all the challenges that were troubling the civil servants including their demand for the restoration of the US$540 salary and purchasing power.
“H.E. said his administration was committed to salaries of US$540 per month but it wasn’t possible to address everything at the same time as our concerns were to be addressed slowly but surely,” Mushangu said.
He said the restoration of October 2018 salaries will mitigate the inflationary environment but the process is long.
“We told the President that we acknowledge his efforts but we want the process to be a bit fast so that workers can be capacitated,” Mushangu said, adding the National Joint Negotiating Council processes were long and winding.
The civil servants union called for the harmonisation of the labour laws to which Mnangagwa was receptive.
The unions appealed to Mnangagwa to pardon teachers and lift the suspensions.
But the President indicated that he was to be appraised by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education on recommendations based on the current behaviour by the teachers.
Mnangagwa concluded by warning trade unions to concentrate on their mandate of representing workers rather than engaging in politics.
The vocal teacher representative groups such as Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe were not called for the meeting.
PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe told Business Times that they still want to meet the President separately.
“We haven’t gotten the chance to meet the President when others met him so we still want a chance to do so, maybe our concerns may be heard. We continue seeking his audience, maybe he will give us a date soon,” Majongwe said.
He said teachers continue to dig in until their concerns are addressed.
Majongwe said the teachers do not fear suspension or expulsion as they have confidence in what they stand for.
The move by teachers came after the government announced a 20% salary increment plus US$100 a month for all civil servants.
The government also promised to pay ZWL$20 000 per school term per child for three biological children, among other propositions.
Currently, teachers are earning around ZWL$24 000 a month, which is about US$100 and headmasters are reportedly earning around ZWL$30 000 per month or US$130 a month.
The teachers’ employer, the Public Service Commission (PSC) gave the striking teachers an ultimatum to report for work by February 22, a move which could escalate the friction between government and the teachers.
Those who will fail to return to work, the PSC said, would be deemed to have resigned from service.
It said some teachers continue to absent themselves from work, with some reporting for duty but not teaching despite significant steps taken by the government to improve their conditions of service.
But ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure said the teachers will stick to their demands.
“We will stand with our demands and we will not back down because PSC has threatened us. The employer gave February 22 as the deadline for us but we are still in the trenches and we are not going anywhere until they address our demand,” Masaraure said.
“PSC has no umbrella powers to us and that is the reason we made an urgent application to the High Court to nullify that.”
The government believes that some teacher organisations no longer represent educators’ concerns and are meddling in politics.
At his star rally on Sunday, Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa told teachers to remain steadfast to their demands.