Teachers are demanding that the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) be replaced by a new collective bargaining council, as frustrations among civil servants are mounting over the lack of progress in salary negotiations.
The NJNC brings together the government and unions representing civil servants for negotiations on the latter’s salaries and conditions of service.
Civil servants have been demanding at least US$540 for the lowest-paid worker but the government is not moving closer to meeting this demand.
The workers now feel the NJNC is no longer effective.
In July this year, teachers` unions under the banner Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (FOZEU) pulled out of the NJNC citing fruitless disagreements and its failure to “uphold labour constitutional rights as enshrined in the national constitution section 65(1) which calls for collective bargaining.”
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), which has remained in the council, is demanding a new “collective bargaining council” to be constituted and has given the government up to the end of 2022 to meet this demand, according to Richard Gundane, president of the association.
“Talking to the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare (Paul Mavhima), there were clear indications that we must now come up with a mechanism that is in line with section 65 of the Zimbabwean constitution, which gives room to collective bargaining. So, a new collective bargaining council has to be put in place and we have given the government up to the end of the year.
We are imploring and reminding the minister in question to say, come by the end of the year, let’s remove this NJNC, which is very weak, which is largely controlled by government and which is not producing results by something that is going to promote good industrial relations.”
Gundane said that teachers were frustrated by the lack of “results” from the social dialogue through the NJNC. He blamed the government for negotiating in “bad faith” by failing to fulfill its commitment to the dialogue agreements.
“On the last agreement that we had, there was an agreement that government was going to come up with a system that was going to make it possible for every educator, particularly teachers, to get free transport from home to work, whether it was in urban areas or in rural areas. This, again, has not materialised. So you see that bad faith, when you come up with an agreement and it is not followed through,” Gundane said.
He said the frustrations in civil servants have been heightened by the recently announced change of method of payment for bonuses, where the awarding of the 13th cheque would now be based on one`s performance.
According to Gundane, teachers felt betrayed by the government as it had in the last NJNC meeting committed to paying bonuses to all civil servants as was traditionally being done.
“In our last round of negotiations at the NJNC, we did talk about bonus and the government told us a different story altogether.
They promised that the 2022 bonus would be paid come the end of the year and we were only waiting for the final modalities. This was never brought to the table. We only learned through the media and that’s not the best way to do it. That’s acting in bad faith.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Takavafira Zhou told 98.4FM News that changes in the bonus payment methods should be done at the beginning of the year.
“What is clear is that the modus operandi of paying bonuses must be made in January so that it remains a guiding compass to the performance of workers, particularly civil servants.
“Above all, the enunciation of the modus operandi of paying bonuses must be a product of social dialogue or meaningful engagement with representatives of the workers.
To merely wake up and change the goalposts for the payment of bonuses is unfair and not only that, the government enunciated earlier on that it was going to pay all its workers a bonus in November. To now change on the 11th hour what they have promised workers all along would be unfair and a monument of unfair labour practice.”
Zhou said if the government failed to pay all civil servants’ bonuses it would see them take action to resist the move.
“Civil servants must not be blamed for any eventuality in the event that government proceeds with its unfair labour practice of paying a bonus in terms of performance appraisal, which was not the key indicator when they announced payment of bonus earlier on.”