BY BRENNA MATENDERE/PRIMROSE HAISA
Zimbabwe’s poorly paid teachers have little room to manoeuvre when trying to force a change in their work environment as the country’s laws are heavily staked against government workers, a new report says.
According to the Labour Justice Index (Teaching Profession) 2020 produced by prominent labour lawyers Munyaradzi Gwisai and Edzai Edson Matika, the government’s handling of strikes by teachers this year showed that civil servants had limited options because of bad laws.
The index was prepared on behalf of the Obert Masaraure-led Amalgamated Rural Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz).
“There is nothing to celebrate as there is grave labour injustice occurring in the teaching profession largely owing to the legislative gap between the constitution of Zimbabwe and the existing operative laws in the public sector,” reads the report.
“There is need to challenge the existing laws, which take away the rights given by the constitution.
“Trade unions need to push for legislative alignment through litigation and/or advocacy and lobbying to ensure that the existing laws reflect the dictates of section 65 and related provisions of the constitution.”
At the beginning of the just-ended school term, teachers at public schools refused to return to class citing lack of personal protective equipment in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Teachers also wanted their salaries to be paid in foreign currency, saying their incomes had been eroded by inflation.
The government awarded teachers and other civil servants modest salary increments sometime in October, before threatening to dock salaries of those that insisted on continuing with the job boycott.
Throughout the year, Artuz led small demonstrations to raise the plight of educators, but the authorities responded by arresting the union’s leaders.
Masaraure is a victim of regular abductions and torture by suspected state security agents. He has also been arrested several times for his activism.
Gwisai and Matika recommended that teachers’ unions must put pressure on the authorities to align laws that affect their profession with the constitution to end the ill-treatment of their members.
“Trade unions need to push for legislative alignment through litigation and/or advocacy and lobbying to ensure that the existing laws reflect the dictates of section 65 and related provisions of the constitution,” the report says.
“There is need for unions to step up their activities and use their collective force.
“The adage ‘united we stand divided we fall’ stood to its real meaning this 2020 when teachers defied the threats by the employer and remained resolute with their fight for better salaries until such a time division was sown amongst them.
“Every unilateral decision by the employer to the detriment of the workers must not go unchallenged as spirited resistance to adverse unilateral decisions has proved effective over the years.”
The report added: “Examples of such adverse decisions that have been resisted include the garrison shops decision, the issue of the civil service being placed under the Office of the President and Cabinet and some collective government housing schemes.”