Teachers pressure Mugabe to pay promised PDL salaries

Teachers’ unions have demanded that President Robert Mugabe’s new government should immediately pay them promised salaries, above the poverty datum Line of over $534, 92 per month.

The call by teachers comes in the wake of the announcement by ZEC that President Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party won both the presidential and parliamentary polls resoundingly.

During the just expired Government of National Unity, President Mugabe and his party blamed MDC-T Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, of denying civil servants living salaries in line with the poverty datum line.

After election results were announced, President Mugabe said he will honor all promises made by his party ahead of the harmonised polls.

Civil servants and other government workers have been earning allowances instead of salaries and wages based on qualifications and grades, ever since Zimbabwe adopted the multiple currencies.

Both the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association expect the new government to review teachers’ salaries as soon as Mugabe appoints his new cabinet.

PTUZ secretary general, Raymond Majongwe, said President Mugabe promised to unlock revenue realised from diamond sales and improve the welfare of teachers and other government workers.

Biti was blamed by Zanu (PF) for being ‘stingy’ and refusing to increase salaries and other benefits for civil servants.

“Mugabe is on record as saying he would speedily address issues to do with the welfare of all government workers as soon as he and Zanu (PF) form government. Now there is no Biti to blame, so we need acceptable salaries above the poverty datum line as soon as cabinet is appointed,” Majongwe told The Zimbabwean in a telephone interview.

Majongwe said Mugabe and his new cabinet should immediately address outstanding issues which have been affecting teachers for the past 13 years.

He said responsible ministers should address the working conditions the moment they set foot in the office.

Majongwe said teachers have been earning peanuts compared to their dedication to work, educational and professional qualifications, patriotism and occupational gradings.

ZIMTA president, Richard Gundani, hopes Mugabe’s new government would accept dialogue and offer teachers something tangible in the near future.

Gundani said his union was optimistic that the new government would immediately pay teachers salaries above the PDL and formulate labor laws that provide space for collective bargaining.

“We expect the new government to review teachers’ salaries as soon as they come into office and make further adjustments after the national budget in January next year. As for now, we are expecting nothing below the PDL,” said Gundani in a telephone interview.

Gundani said his 43, 000 member union wants teachers to be paid salaries according to grading, experience, qualification among other requirements.

The teachers’ unions said they will not accept lame excuses from the new government as teachers had suffered for too long.

The Apex council which brings together the Public Service Association, ZIMTA, PTUZ and the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe could not be reached for comment in this regard.

In the past Apex was ever ready for job actions whenever government dilly-dallied on issues to do with increasing civil servants salaries.

Asked on what options they had should President Mugabe and his cabinet fail to fulfill promises made in the run up to elections, the unions said they will cross the bridge when they get there.

Recently President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, said all promises made would be fulfilled, though according to priority.

“Our promises during election campaigns are genuine,” Mugabe told his first Politburo meeting after the recent harmonised elections.

During the campaigns he promised to improve welfare of civil servants and create employment through the indigenisation and empowerment principles.

Analysts described some of the promises made by Zanu (PF) as populist and difficult to meet.

“It will be interesting to see Mugabe and Zanu (PF) channeling proceeds from Chiadzva diamonds into the national coffers, given that the mines were privatised for the benefit of a few within Mugabe’s inner circle. Besides diamond revenue, treasury cannot sustain civil servants’ salaries above PDL, without an active industry and agriculture sector,” said an economic analyst who requested anonymity.

Economic analyst, Eric Block, said for government to pay its workers sustainable above PDL salaries and wages, it must use state revenue for important things only like paying salaries of its workers among other necessary programs.

He suggested that government cuts down on international travels which continued to gobble substantial funds from treasury.

There were also recommendations that government should ruthlessly eliminate ghost workers from its payroll, if it is serious about its promises to improve workers welfare.

Block described the ‘bloated’ cabinet as weighing heavily on Zimbabwe’s small and limited revenue collection base. He recommended that cabinet be reduced to not more than 10 cabinet ministers.

“Zimbabwe does not need a huge and excessive cabinet of more than 10 ministers. Cutting on expenditure is one of the ways through which government workers can be guaranteed above PDL salaries,” Block told The Zimbabwean in a telephone interview.

There are fears that restless teachers and other government workers may take to the streets, in protest against poor working conditions, if the new government fails to honor its promises on salaries 30 days after getting into office.

On average, a civil servant earns $260. 00 basic salary. There is an additional $150 transport allowance and another $100, 00 for housing.

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