BY TAPFUMANEI MUCHABAIWA
THE Public Service Commission (PSC) said it was going ahead with plans to replace teachers who defied its ultimatum to report for work yesterday without the option of re-engagement in future.
Teachers are locked in a salary dispute with the government after they rejected a 20% salary offer and US$100 allowance among other non-monetary benefits as they insisted on the pre-October 2018 US$540 salary.
The educators have escalated the salary dispute to Education International, asking the Belgium-headquartered global federation of teacher unions to intervene.
As the dispute raged on, the PSC gave the teachers an ultimatum to report for duty yesterday or face dismissal.
This was despite the High Court overturning Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu’s earlier suspension of some teachers.
PSC chairperson Jonathan Wutawunashe yesterday said there was no going back on the tough action against absentee teachers.
“Those teachers who signal that they are no longer willing to work, naturally, have to be replaced as quickly as possible in the interests of schoolchildren,” Wutawunashe told the NewsDay yesterday.
“A teacher, who is absent from work, needs to give a valid and verifiable reason for unavoidable absence, failing which the regulations provide procedures for disciplinary measures, which include dismissal. Urgent recruitment, where there are no teachers, will be done in accordance with established recruitment procedures.”
Government has said it would replace the striking teachers with unemployed trained educators or college graduates. However, unions representing student teachers have also cited incapacitation and called for a review of their allowances.
Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro yesterday claimed that the majority of teachers reported for duty fearing dismissal. Teacher unions said their members stayed away from class.
“For now, we are still collating information on teacher turnout, but generally, we had a very high turnout. Our inspectors are fully operational on the ground and there is no way teachers can go into the classroom just to sit,” Ndoro said.
A survey carried out by NewsDay showed that at several primary schools, teachers reported for work, but at high schools teacher absence was still high.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said government wanted to divide teacher unions. This was after the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) urged its members to report for duty.
“Our initial momentum and unity in diversity across the teacher union divide has been riddled following some teacher unions’ romance with government and complicity in incapacitating teachers. Government has been embarrassed by teachers and was forced to back down on suspension of all teachers, but its potential to decimate divided educators remains realistic,” Majongwe said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president Obert Masaraure said: “The government has deployed massive resources towards deceit, threats and fomenting divisions. The teachers remained united against the odds, but the unity could only last for a while, with more pressure from the government some have regrettably succumbed.”
Masaraure said Artuz members would not report for duty until government engaged in genuine negotiations with the educators.
Zimta president Richard Gundane repeated the call for teachers to go back to work.
“We believe our members will understand the desire to de-escalate this tiff before it crosses the Rubicon of peace and degenerates into a full industrial conflict,” Gundane said.
“We plead with members, in particular those within school environs or are within reach and without heavy financial challenges, to give our learners a chance to get back to school and commence lessons as soon as practically possible.”