A pressure group that has been on the forefront of the ongoing downing of tools by Zimbabwe teachers due to incapacitation has emphatically declared that they are not going to accept any ‘raw deal’ from their employer, saying they can only return back to work only if the Government commits to pay them a monthly salary of not less than US$540.

Since schools reopened for examination classes last Monday, most teachers have not returned back to their workplaces citing incapacitation due to the ‘slave wages’ they have been getting.

The country’s teachers earn as little as US$30 per month, and despite the Government threatening to replace the striking civil servants with a contingent of 10 000 of their ‘qualified but unemployed’ colleagues, the educators have vowed not to return back to work until their demands for better remuneration are met.

And, speaking to Zwnews in an interview this Friday afternoon, one of the coordinators of the Teachers Can’t Breathe Movement, Tafadzwa Munodawafa, said the ‘so-called’ negotiations for their welfare would be futile if their employer does not give heed to their persistent calls for a monthly salary of at least US$540.

“We are definitely not going to accept any offer which is below the US$540,” Munodawafa said.
She also took a swipe at the nine teacher unions which she says ‘didn’t seem committed to genuinely take a stand for us and negotiate on good faith’.

“From 2018, the teacher’s salary began to dwindle. They (the teachers) advised their unions to address this issue with the employer. But there was no serious consideration for our pleas. Then from 2019 the unions declared incapacitation. But from our point of view, unions didn’t seem committed to genuinely take a stand for us and negotiate on good faith,” Munodawafa said.

“There were never any efforts to mobilize members or to resist offers from the employer. They were quick at accepting offers and send us packing back to work disgruntled. At one point in 2019, two major unions issued two different positions, with one calling for total incapacitation while the other said we should report two days a week. I remember that this caused so much confusion among us the inflicted taking away the focus from the real issue of remuneration to the advantage of the employer at least. Also, as a fraternity, we have 9 official unions representing us regardless of us being the lowest paid workers in the country giving us teachers and impression that thier interest in us is more than our welfare,” she said.

Speaking of the improptu formation of the teacher movement which has now gained ground after successfully organising the teachers for the strike, Munodawafa quipped:

“The trigger that brought this movement into life was the behavior of union leaders on the issue of the June exams. Instead of propelling the issue of incapacitation that had not been resolved since January they chose to put their focus on PPEs instead and said nothing about our eroded salary. To make matters worse, when making their presentation in Parliament during that time, they requested to be made part of the task force for Covid teams that were seemingly getting huge T and S for doing those tasks, whatever they were, that made us realise that their interests were more personal than they had interest in our welfare. So, our collegues were forced to go and invigilate against thier will without representation. Upcoming was school opening for November candidates penciled then for July 28”.

The Teachers Can’t Breathe coordinator however commended the unions for now coming on board and supporting their cause- particularly after they realised the successes recorded by the movement, thus far.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government has been fretting over the defiance by the teachers to return back to work despite the phased reopening of schools which started last week with examination classes.

Meanwhile, the country’s teachers Friday rejected a 40% salary increase offered by the Government.