Striking teachers have pushed back against threats of dismissal by Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema saying they will not be cowed into returning to work in the absence of decent wages.
Teachers who are currently earning an equivalent US$30 per month, are demanding the restoration of their October 2018 salaries, which were pegged at a minimum of US$520.
Mathema irked teachers on Wednesday when he threatened to axe striking teachers who are engaging in industrial action over poor salaries.
Mathema said Government had put 10 000 qualified, but unemployed, teachers on standby to replace those that are holding the State to ransom.
In response, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) said striking teachers will not back down.
“The out of sorts Minister claims that he can fire striking teachers and replace them with the 10 000 unemployed teachers. The threat of firing teachers and the wrong statistics exposes a man out of touch with reality,” Artuz said in a statement.
“Ambassador Mathema should know that 98% of Zimbabwe’s 136 000 teachers are on strike. These teachers can’t be replaced by his 10 000 reserve teachers. Cain also got the 10 000 unemployed teachers statistics wrong, Zimbabwe has 37 000 who are out of employment. The Unemployed Teachers Association UTA maintains the data base.”
“UTA has however declared that they are not willing to be used as a reserve labour force by government, they are demanding to be employed to fill the staff shortage of over 90 000 teachers,” Artuz said.
Mathema told the State media that Government would not allow a situation where pupils who had lost precious time during the Covid-19 lockdown, continued to be disenfranchised.
“Negotiations between Government and its workers are ongoing and we hope that they will soon find common ground to improve the lives of civil servants,” Mathema said.
“Some teachers might want to hold the Government to ransom by not reporting for duty waiting for the completion of these negotiations. What we are saying is that learners have not been going to school since March and the Government will not allow a situation where they continue to be disadvantaged.”
“We have at least 10 000 teachers who are unemployed and if the crunch comes, we will be left with no option but to quickly employ some of those teachers. Schooling has to go on and we will employ if there is need to,” Mathema continued.
Artuz said teachers are not afraid of being fired.
“If Government chooses to illegally fire teachers, the illegality will be fought in the courts. Either way it is our education sector which will suffer. Section 65 of Zimbabwe’s constitution provides for the right to engage in a job action and further provides for the right to a living wage. The illegal firing of teachers will not stand,” Artuz said.
Artuz insisted that Government cannot be allowed to celebrate budgetary surplus when state workers are starving.
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