A recent press statement by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Paul Mavima, to the effect that “45% increment will be effected to salaries of public workers while negotiations with workers’ representatives continue”, is regrettable to starving teachers.
Fundamentally, this is the same Minister who in November 2020 claimed that a road map for the restoration of US$520-US$550 would have been reached by 31 January 2021, which never was.
Secondly, after the paltry 25% unilateral government offer to workers in April 2021, Prof Mavima claimed that negotiations with workers’ representatives would continue.
But since then, there has been no single meeting with workers’ representatives. What Minister Mavima has done is to render even the NJNC impotent or meetings between the government team and the moribund Apex Council, remote and a nullity. He has even become the chief government negotiator and spokesperson of Apex Council.
Sadly, there are some who still put hope in collective begging under Apex, rather than bargaining under section 65 of the constitution.
It is clear based on past history that the purported continued negotiations with workers’ representatives are a ruse or homiletic bellicose tailor-made to pacify government workers.
Worse still there has not been any salary increase for civil servants since October 2018. It is important to use English terms properly.
How does a person who was earning US$520-US$550, get a salary increase by earning a salary less than US$200?
With the current lowest-paid teacher getting $13 300, the 45% will take the teacher to $18 620, which is less than US$ 200 and far too short to meet the minimum expectations of the restoration of the purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries pegged at US$520-US$550.
Worse still, the 45% is post-dated to July and by then prices of basic commodities would have adjusted by more than 45% thereby eroding the purported increment.
The has also done nothing to address the issue of salary discrepancies among government workers.
With the 45% award, the gap between teachers and other government workers currently earning double and treble the salaries of teachers despite having fewer qualifications and responsibilities would continue to grow or widen.
Indeed the most precipitous conditions faced by teachers have not only affected their morale but also psychologically, with suicide cases becoming the order of the day.
Even the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has recently ordered DSIs and school heads to assess the mental stability of teachers and ensure that mental retardation of teachers does not affect pupils.
This is not addressing the problem of starvation wages but symptoms. Both the government and Ministry must address the problem, viz, pay teachers a living wage.
However, should the government fail to do so as a matter of urgency, teachers must use their poverty to unite and liberate themselves. Our collective effort will guarantee our triumph.
Takavafira M. Zhou (PTUZ President)