The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Teachers Demand Living Wage

TEACHERS want labour laws harmonised, a guarantee of effective collective bargaining, a living wage and pension for all civil servants as a precondition to support the draft Constitution.

The educators yesterday said civil servants would continue

engaging in "useless" collective bargaining if the draft Constitution sailed through in its present form.

They want to be treated the same as workers in the private sector who have better working conditions.

Speaking during World Teachers Day commemorations in Harare yesterday, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Mr Takavafira Zhou said the educators would not support a draft Constitution that is a "monument of labour injustice" at a referendum slated for early next month.

They argued that Chapter 4.24.3(b) of the Copac draft stated that the functions of the Civil Service Commission included, inter-alia, "to fix and regulate conditions of service, including salaries, allowances and other benefits of members of the Civil Service".

As a result, Mr Zhou said, Government would continue dictating the pace in salary negotiations.

"It is therefore our responsibility to amplify our voices to ensure that the anomalies do not filter into the final Constitution.

"If we do not do that, we will continue to engage in negotiations that are useless and Government will continue to abuse us knowing they are protected by the Constitution.

"With such a scenario, our constituents will obviously go for a no vote come referendum time," he said.

He said delegates representing the education sector would recommend that these changes be effected during the second all stakeholders' conference.

Mr Zhou said the inclusive Government had "misplaced priorities" as it prioritised power rather than education.

"Teachers had high hopes when GPA was enunciated, but the hopes have now faded," he said.

"The education budget has remained low and has never resonated with the developmental budget as stipulated by the Dakar and Unesco frameworks for an education budget hovering above 22 percent of the total budget," he said.

"This GPA will be remembered for rewarding every Member of Parliament with US$15 000, purchasing new top-of-the-range vehicles and institutional looting. Not surprisingly, it is now a Government of national looting."

In his solidarity message, newly elected Apex Council chairperson Mr David Dzatsunga, said civil servants unions would next week meet to map the way forward on salaries and working conditions.

"The workers need action, but we have to strategise. The workers have suffered because for the first time since independence, workers have not received any increment.

"We should be organised now. It's either we put up or shut up," he said.

Government this week ordered civil servants unions to resolve their leadership dispute if they are to engage it salary negotiations.

Two fronts have emerged from the civil servants' union with each one claiming to be the legitimate Apex council leader.

Zimta president Mrs Tendai Chikowore said the educators should not be used by politicians who only remember them during election and campaign periods.

"They drop us like hot potatoes after getting into their elected positions. Our experiences during the last harmonised elections should guide us as we move to the next election in 2013.

"We need legislators who take a stand for the teachers in Parliament and any other forum where discussions about the educators' welfare issues are highlighted."

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai made a lot of promises to civil servants when he came in as premier in 2009 but to date none of the promises has been fulfilled.

The least-paid Government worker is getting US$396 a month while the poverty datum line stands at US$596.

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