Government Running Scared

The teachers’ job action has now shaken the corridors of power. The Public Service Commission, PSC, has confirmed that teachers’ job action has brought business to a halt in our schools country wide. As we expected the employer further threatened to cease salaries of teachers who are on the legal job action invoking an apartheid like principle of “No work no pay.”

The contested legality of the job action

The public service commission, PSC claims that discussions between government and the Apex Council are ongoing under the National Joint Negotiating Council, NJNC and further assets that APEX has not called for a strike.

The said discussions between government and APEX have been ongoing from as far back as 2017. These are routine coffee meetings that have no time frames and no clear agenda. The teachers cannot be held at ransom through such informal discussions.

The APEX council and the NJNC framework are now illegal establishments after the consummation of the new constitution. Section 65 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe provides for Collective Bargaining as a fundamental right of the working people. Collective bargaining is broader and inclusive of a wide section of the working people of Zimbabwe. However, nearly six years after the adoption of the Constitution, government has dragged its feet with regard to establishing this body, opting for maintaining the exclusive, narrow, minimalist and unconstitutional NJNC route.

We note that Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997 Public Service (Joint Negotiating Council) Regulations is ultra vires to Section 65 of the Constitution.

The teacher Unions have duly notified the employer of the intended job action, ARTUZ notified the employer as early as 31 December 2018. Other Unions did the same latter in January and the 14 days required at law has since lapsed.

The ongoing strike is therefore a protected strike. A protected strike is a strike that complies with the requirements in the law, where the subject matter of the strike is legitimate and procedural requirements are complied with prior to the strike commencing. All striking teachers are therefore safe.

The No work No pay principle

This principle can only be applied in circumstances where the strike action has been ruled illegal. A job action cannot be ruled to be illegal by the employer, the employer can only approach an impartial court to raise a show cause order. The court will then rule on the legality of the job action. The PSC is thus offside on this one.

It should also be noted that a job action can still be sustained outside the legalities of the capitalist legal framework. The recent job action by the doctors is a clear case study. The doctors’ job action was sustained way after the courts had ruled the strike as illegal. At the end the doctors got more concessions from the employer.

The success of a job action is therefore hinged on the ability of the working class to organize and mobilize all workers to withdraw their labour.

ARTUZ urges sister Unions and all teachers to view the PSC threats as a ray of hope. Indeed we have shaken the system, let’s mobilize the remaining 18% of the teachers for a complete shutdown.

Our legitimate demands

The teachers have been doing, “more work with no pay over the years.” In 2012 our salaries were negotiated in United States dollars. The employer has reneged on this agreement by paying us in RTGS currency. The employer has not adjusted the RTGS salaries to match the rates prevailing on the market for the RTGS to United States dollars. Consequently a teacher who is supposed to be earning US$500 is now receiving around US$120 per month.

Prices of basic goods and services have soared by a cumulative rate of over 500% and government has responded by awarding an average US$15 as cushioning allowance.

We demand our salaries in United States dollars and our 2018 annual bonus in full.

Way forward

ARTUZ is now firmly on the ground mobilizing the remaining teachers to leave schools and join the job action. The struggle for a living wage continues unabated. As workers we don’t own anything else other than our labor. We cannot volunteer this labor for free. Our labor is our source of livelihood.

We once again implore government to come down to the negotiating table.

Source: Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)

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