Teachers' unions in Zimbabwe have threatened a nationwide strike next week that may prevent schools from re-opening, accusing the government of dragging its feet over salary negotiations.
The unions say government, which has been pleading bankruptcy to avoid giving civil servants a salary hike, is being insincere, especially after agreeing to pay lawmakers $15,000 dollars apiece in backdated sitting allowances.
In total, government will fork out about $2 million for the allowances.
Government employees want their salaries adjusted in line with the country’s poverty datum line which would see the least paid civil servant earning about $540 up from $253.
But they have yet to get a response from their employer since submitting proposals last month. A meeting was said to have been slotted for Friday with the combative unions.
Meanwhile, Education Minister David Coltart dismissed reports by the state-run Herald newspaper that rural teachers were set to get 20 percent in allowances to cover for incentives being given their counterparts in the urban areas.
Coltart told VOA's Violet Gonda that he was misquoted by the newspaper and that there has been no decision made in cabinet.
“Whilst we have asked for rural allowances to be paid," Coltart said, "there is no agreement in that regard and I would not want my colleagues in the trade union movement or teachers to suffer from any misrepresentation.”
He stressed: “We believe that rural allowances need to be introduced but where the Herald said they were going to be introduced immediately, and used the figure of 20 percent, I am afraid that was wrong.”
Secretary-General Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe or PTUZ said while they welcome initiatives to ease the suffering of rural teachers, government must avoid overburdening struggling parents.
Zimbabwe Teachers' Association Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu said the education ministry has not discussed the rural teacher incentives with them.
PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou said there was a lot of mistrust between the state and unions representing civil servants, charging the government is negotiating in bad faith and is arrogant.
“We reach very progressive ideas with the ministry (of education), particularly with the minister but it falls short on implementation, where it involves other ministries,” Zhou said.