Zimbabwean teachers could be the only hope for pushing the government to increase civil servants salaries.
Strike action for most civil servants is illegal in Zimbabwe, the police and army personnel can not engage in any industrial action or go on strike. Thusly, all hopes of the government increasing civil servants salaries are pinned on strike action by teachers. The logic being government will not just look at reviewing teachers salaries in isolation but review civil servants salaries wholesale.
The right to strike is fundamental for trade unions in underpinning their ability to organise, collectively bargain and represent their members. However, this right has often been restricted for public service workers and in recent years has come under attack.
In recent months the pretext of the Covid 19 pandemic has be used as reasons for schools opening as late as February after the Christmas break last year.
But a closer look at the situation obtaining on the ground indicates that teachers were effectively on strike and thus, schools did not open on time.
Report Focus News has it on good authority that the teachers Unions in Zimbabwe have been pushing the government to review and upwardly adjust teachers salaries.
The leader of the newly formed political party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Nelson Chamisa in his median speech at Zimbabwe grounds over the last weekend weighed in on the matter stating that teachers were fundament to all profession in any economy.
‘There can not be doctors if there are no teachers and there can not be politicians without teachers…’
Chamisa’s statements come at a time that teachers are on what seems to be a partial strike.
There have been a number of worrying developments in recent years where the Zimbabwean government has attempted to undermine the right to strike.
Threats and intimidation of Union representatives and the arbitrary arrests of those who call for strike action are commonplace in Zimbabwe.
When doctors and nurses went on strike in Zimbabwe calling for better pay and improved working conditions, Vice President Chiwenga did not mince his words. Doctors and nurses were ordered back to work, military style. They were cowed into submission by unspecified threats.
These actions of threats and intimidation of those who seek to use collective bargaining and stand up for workers rights in Zimbabwe show show that the Zimbabwean government is attempting to restrict public service workers’ rights and basic freedoms by curtailing their fundamental right to strike. Many groups of public sector workers are restricted or even banned from taking strike action, while procedural rules and requirements to provide minimum levels of essential services further limit their rights. In some cases, workers taking strike action have been criminalised and even imprisoned for taking part in peaceful industrial action.
There are few rights workers have won without a struggle. The right to strike has been crucial to many of the rights and benefits we take for granted today.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) makes it clear that, The right to strike and the ILO, that without the right to strike, a right to collective bargaining amounts to no more than a right to “collective begging”. Given the chance, the Zimbabwean government will roll-back these hard-fought advances.
It is crucial that Zimbabwean public service workers and their unions resist these attacks and defend the right to strike. As the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association Mr. Maina Kiai said, “protecting the right to strike is not simply about States fulfilling their legal obligations. It is also about them creating democratic and equitable societies that are sustainable in the long run”.
As things stand in Zimbabwe at the moment with regards civil servants salaries hope rests on teachers continuing to push the government to review salaries.
The soldiers won’t do it, the police can’t do it.
Nurses and doctors want to do it but cannot because they have a duty of care their conscience simply won’t allow for them to abandon patients.