HARARE – The government on Thursday ratcheted up pressure on striking teachers, saying it will dock their salaries for hours not worked.
The government move came on the same day that the two largest unions – ZIMTA and PTUZ – called on teachers to “intensify” their strike by staying at home. Some teachers were turning up at schools, but not teaching.
The unions said the decision had been made in response to incidents of threats against their members by “school heads, ministry functionaries, security agents and political activists.”
“The industrial action intensifies tomorrow on February 8, 2019, and we call upon all our members not to set foot at schools,” the unions said in a joint statement, while threatening legal action against the government “if the harassment continues.”
The government, meanwhile, was brewing up new pressure on the teachers, whose strike for improved pay began on February 5.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) announced it was invoking the ‘No Work, No Pay’ principle.
PSC chairman Vincent Hungwe said: “The commission has been made aware of isolated cases of abscondment by a minority of teachers at specific schools across some districts and provinces of the country.
“Accordingly, and in keeping with the applicable regulations, the commission advises members that unauthorised non-attendance at workstations will result in corresponding deductions from the salaries of the offending individuals on the basis of the principle ‘No Work, No Pay’,” he said in a statement.
The PSC said the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the PSC inspectorate agency will monitor attendance by teachers across the country.
The government maintains that its talks with the teachers and other civil servants under the umbrella of the Apex Council have not reached a deadlock. But the teachers accused other unions of going into bed with the government, before going it alone.
Teachers are demanding that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s goverment more than quadruple the salaries of its lowest paid workers to offset the highest inflation rate in a decade.
Union officials estimate about three quarters of teachers heeded the call to strike, said Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe. They are unable to verify those numbers because they’re being blocked from entering schools by police and plain-clothes security forces, he said by phone.
Teachers are demanding the government increase the lowest salaries to $1,700 from $400. The cash-strapped government, which is implementing austerity measures to rein in a yawning budget and rampant inflation, has balked at their wage demands.