Zimbabwe teachers strike over wages

Teachers at Zimbabwe’s state-run schools will begin a strike on Wednesday to demand a 150% salary increase and an end to political attacks against them, union officials said.

“We will be starting our strike tomorrow to press for salary review, and for the security of members who are victims of political violence, especially in the rural areas,” Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

“So far most members have confirmed that they will be on strike starting tomorrow.”

Teachers earn $200 a month, but they are demanding a raise to $500.

The teachers also want a review of their housing and transport allowance and the removal of “ghost workers” on the government payroll.

Zimbabwe has 105 000 teachers on the payroll, but Zhou said his union estimates only 77 000 are actually working.

Bear brunt of political violence
Inflated payroll numbers are a problem throughout the civil service, with Finance Minister Tendai Biti estimating that about one-third of government’s 230 000 employees don’t actually exist.

He insists that the cash-strapped government cannot afford salary increases.

Biti is an ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a one-time union leader who joined President Robert Mugabe in a rocky unity government two years ago.

Mugabe accuses Biti of deliberately sabotaging the government by refusing the increases.

The country’s civil servants, particularly teachers, nurses and doctors, have been striking on and off over better salaries since 2008.

Teachers, especially in rural areas, have born the brunt of political attacks by pro-Mugabe militants who accuse them of supporting Tsvangirai.

Teachers are often used to staff rural polling stations, and Mugabe supporters blamed them for his party’s poor showing in 2008, when his Zanu-PF lost control of Parliament and he was forced into an inconclusive run-off with Tsvangirai. - AFP


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