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Teachers observe “Black May Day” amidst hardships

Richard Gundane, ZIMTA President

Teachers decried the lack of recognition and poor remuneration from their employers and described the 2021 International Workers Day as the “Black May Day” for the education sector.

May 1st is a day that teachers ordinarily celebrate and chronicle their achievements while they plan ahead but the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) said it is no longer the case since educators are operating in distress and under duress.

“The work that educators normally do as a calling is no longer fit to be classified as a noble profession. In education, all personnel and educators are incapacitated to deliver their duties. Public schooling systems and teachers which until recently were admired by the rest of the African continent as a good example of how to deliver quality public education are fast deteriorating into unimaginable stories and things, because the educators who normally superintend and ensure quality learning and teaching exists are longer able to do so. They are incapacitated and struggle to represent themselves as the epitome of professional educators.

“The employer for educators has consistently failed to reward educators adequately. This May Day we decry the lack of recognition and poor remuneration from our employer. It’s a BLACK DAY. There is nothing to celebrate when educators plead incapacitation year in and year out, and without recourse, we are doomed! However, we take note of the efforts made by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on education which has provided a listening ear and grasped the fact that educators need to have correct collective bargaining legislation in place if they are to achieve desired results,” said Mr. Richard Gundane, the ZIMTA President.

The Federation of Educators’ Unions of Zimbabwe (FEUZ) said May Day has ceased to be a celebration but rather a moment of mourning.

“As teachers under FEUZ, we mourn the deteriorating environment in which we operate in. Our Environment is characterised by poor salaries and working conditions. Day-in-Day-Out we are exposed to situations where we struggle to project and maintain a dignified status out of the meagre monthly salary which is below the poverty datum line. Furthermore, on a daily basis, we interact with the huge class sizes coupled with inadequate teaching and learning resources. This then drives the teachers’ morale to its lowest ebb.

“Furthermore, labour laws in this country are more of an inhibitor than an enhancer of social dialogue resulting in failure by the employer to improve our working conditions. As such, a bunch or a group of demotivated and incapacitated teachers is created. Most teachers are unable to send their own children to schools of their choice as their salaries are too little to pay the required school fees and Levy. Teachers are workers too who deserve to be treated with dignity and have the right to be heard. It is our hope and trust that both parties, the Government and the Labour Movement bring positive results that are favourable to the workers through our negotiation platforms. This should be done to help achieve the learners’ rights to education and balanced off with labour rights,” FEUZ said.

The Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU) paid special tribute to all the frontline workers who have led with selflessness, for the common good, during the COVID-19 crisis.

ZCPSTU called upon the Government of Zimbabwe to quickly harmonize Labour law principles so that they are in tandem with the rest of the civilized world.

“There is no justification whatsoever to maintain the colonial Public Services Act and its dysfunctional baby called National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) when our 2013 Constitution provides workers with collective bargaining rights. To our Guest of Honour and our Minister, we say, please use your considerable influence to cause for the speedy harmonization of our Labour law not because it’s good for workers but because it’s even better for Government as an employer as it engenders harmony in our workplaces. Harmonization will put an end to unilateralism, the consultation will be two way and dispute resolution will be guided by the law,” the union said.

The educators said initiatives like the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) and the Pension would have a greater impact and cadence if there was consultation with the intended beneficiaries and stakeholders. As it stands, they argued that they are treated with suspicion and disdain by some workers because they were conceived in the dark. ZCPSTU said the move will eliminate imposters who masquerade as unions while pushing their own political causes and called for a Collective Bargaining Council as a matter of urgency.

“There is no excuse for procrastination any more. The COVID-19 pandemic has armed us with hard-earned but vital wisdom on occupational health and safety in our workplaces. We need an occupational health and safety policy that is a product of bi-partyism. In this era of COVID-19, we have witnessed chaos in the workplace as workers and employers grapple over safety concerns and with regards to protections for those infected. We have noted that such matters have been dealt with unilaterally by the employers and have caused resistance and discord from the workers. The future of work demands that we prioritize consultation, participation and protection of all workers and employer alike. COVID-19 taught us that health and safety at the workplace should concern us all as it spared no one.”

 

May 2021 comes at a very dark moment for civil servants of Zimbabwe. Educators are staring a threat to their very existence with regards to their very poor working conditions.

“We have been reduced to penury as we are caught between a ravaging economy and an unyielding employer. Government and business seem to have connived to choke us with slave wages. We are horrified by the attempt to normalize the abnormal by our employers. The economy has effectively dollarised except for salaries and wages which remain in local currency. While Government continues to argue that they cannot pay us in US dollars, they still refuse to benchmark our salaries against the same.

“Right now as of this May Day we are incapacitated and our employer has evoked the ‘no work no pay’ measure which is to say, we don’t care if you are hungry, we don’t care if you are sick, we don’t care if your children are not in school or if you have brushed your teeth or washed with soap, come to work or we will fire you. We need honest dialogue before we make such a pronouncement, especially in light of our yet to be concluded round of negotiations. We have forever been promised that things will get better but better has remained a pie in the sky only for those few who can fly.”

 

 

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende