Government workers on Wednesday rejected a staggering salary hike of 25 percent this month and 45 percent in July for a cumulative total of 70 percent.
Teachers warned they would work a three-day week when schools re-open after the Easter holidays.
Soaring inflation has eroded salaries and savings as Zimbabwe grapples with a major economic crisis marked by shortages of foreign exchange, food, and high unemployment.
The Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU), formerly known as the Apex Council, said “the offer does not address the urgent need to capacitate workers and is not based on any formula related to the cost of living or the food basket.”
“The workers wanted the employer to be sincere about implementing the November 2020 National Joint Negotiation Committee resolution to craft a roadmap towards the restoration of the value of wages to the pre-October 2018 levels, which resolution should have been actualised in January 2021,” said the ZCPSTU in a statement following talks with government representatives.
Public sector unions want the lowest paid worker to be paid at least US$540, which they say was the salary level in 2018.
The latest pay offer from the government would see the lowest-paid state employees getting Z$16,798 (US$199) a month in April, rising to Z$20,578 (US$243) from July.
Teachers’ unions warned there would disruptions to learning.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA), the country’s largest, said the government had tabled the offer in “straight jacket fashion”, with no room for negotiation.
ZIMTA’s acting secretary Goodwill Taderera said the government pay offer “could pass for an April Fools Day joke.”
“Having given the employer a conditional and interim opening of schools and 15 days to address teacher incapacitation, we now rescind our promise to be in class beyond the Easter holidays,” Taderera said.
“Thus, beginning on April 6, our members will have a shorter working week to a maximum of three days per week – Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday only.”
Taderera rallied teachers to “join the struggle towards equitable and fair treatment in remuneration.”
Raymond Majongwe, the secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe said a key bone of contention for teachers was that the government had raised the pay of soldiers, police officers, and prison officers to a level above teachers.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union said the government pay offer was an “insult” and called on teachers to “cripple the education sector until the employer pays out dues.”
With year-on-year inflation estimated at 321.59 percent in February and the local currency losing value, life is increasingly hard for ordinary Zimbabweans, who also have to contend with the effects of Covid-19.
That has sapped any hope of an economic rebound promised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he was elected in a disputed election in 2018. – ZimLive