HARARE – Teachers have raised the stakes in pay negotiations with the government after raising their demands.
A virtual meeting between the government and public sector unions that was to discuss wage adjustments did not take place in Harare on Wednesday, officials said due to connectivity issues.
Apex Council President Cecilia Alexander: “There were connectivity issues, so we weren’t able to communicate seamlessly. Given the importance of the meeting and the levels of interaction required, we on the worker side requested a physical meeting on Friday.
Outside a place where government officials were meeting, 15 teachers and a journalist were arrested by the police. Freelance journalist Marry Mundeya was later released after lawyers intervened.
Government workers fought to have their wages restored to 2018 levels when the lowest-paid worker won US$540.
Today, the country’s largest teachers’ union, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), has further strengthened its demands. In a list of demands to be filed with the government, he wants salaries to be raised to US$671 for the lowest-paid civil servant.
The union cited what it called “the decimation of teachers’ salaries and allowances in particular, and civil servants in general” by a weak currency.
According to Zimta, if the government fails to meet this demand, at least half must be paid in foreign currency and the other half must be received in local currency.
The government has so far pledged to pay civil servants a Covid-19 allowance of US$75 in US dollars, while pensioners receive US$30. A teacher earns an average of Z$25,000 (US$231 at the official exchange rate, or US$125 on the widely used parallel market).
Wages have been shriveled by huge losses in the local currency. The government has set the exchange rate at 1:108, but on the widely used black market, one US dollar trades for $200 RTGS, the electronic money the government uses to pay its workers.
Meanwhile, police arrested 15 members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union outside NSSA House in Harare after they held up signs demanding better pay.
Union leader Obert Masaraure was among those arrested.