Teachers raise salary demand to US$671 as wage talks delayed

HARARE – Teachers have raised the stakes in salary negotiations with the government after upping their demands.

A virtual meeting between the government and public sector unions which was expected to discuss wage adjustments failed to take place in Harare on Wednesday, officials said due to connectivity problems.

Apex Council president Cecilia Alexander: “There were connectivity problems so we failed to communicate smoothly. Given the importance of the meeting and the required levels of interaction, we the workers side have requested for a physical meeting on Friday.”

Outside a venue where government representatives met, 15 teachers and a journalist were detained by police. Freelance journalist Marry Mundeya was subsequently released after lawyers intervened.

Government workers have been battling to have their salaries restored to 2018 levels when the lowest paid worker took home US$540.

Now, the country’s biggest teachers’ union, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta), has raised its demands further. In a list of demands to be tabled with the government, it wants salaries raised to US$671 for the lowest paid civil servant.

The union cited what it called “the decimation of salaries and allowances for teachers in particular, and civil servants in general” by a weak currency.

Zimta says should the government fail to meet that demand, at least half should be paid in foreign currency with the other half to be received in the local currency.

The government has so far committed to paying civil servants a US$75 Covid-19 allowance in United States dollars, while pensioners get US$30. A teacher earns an average Z$25,000 (US$231 using official exchange rate, or US$125 on the widely-used parallel market).

Salaries have been shrivelled by huge losses by the local currency. The government has fixed the exchange rate at 1:108, but on the widely used black market one United States dollar is trading for RTGS$200, the electronic currency that 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 placards demanding better pay.

The union’s leader Obert Masaraure was among those arrested.

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