Let’s gear up, not go slow

Chido Chikuni Correspondent
The move by the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) to urge its members to engage in a go-slow beginning this week as a way of ostensibly pushing Government to improve their working conditions through, amongst other things, reducing last month’s pension deductions from $40 to $10 per month as well as salary increments, is ill-advised and detrimental to an already over-burdened wage bill.

Government employees have been benefiting from the Government which has been paying 100 percent pension fund on their behalf since 2009. Now that Government is facing financial challenges, deducting only 7,5 percent of one’s salary for pension should go a long way in cutting down expenditure. It is well-known that Government is financially constrained; hence it was not possible for the status quo to continue.

It might appear as if the Government has been unfair to civil servants, but it is one of the many painful endeavours meant to contribute towards economic recovery. The only unfortunate thing is that the pensions’ deductions came at a time when the economy is not stable. Government is actually investing for the future of its employees. If a question maybe asked, who doesn’t want to benefit after he/she retires from work?

No one, one would guess!

Reports have it that the planned go-slow will later develop into an industrial action which is said to likely induce other civil servants if Government and civil servants’ union leaders fail to reach an agreement when they meet under the auspices of the National Joint Negotiating Council on 20 January 2016. Surely, people should use their common sense and understand that, presently, Government has no money. Speaking of civil servants bonus, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa made it clear that Government was still mobilising resources. Therefore, civil servants should be encouraged to abstain from striking. They should learn to have their problems resolved formally or through negotiations.

In simpler terms, industrial action can be defined as a refusal by employees to do anything that can be used as a bargaining weapon against the employer, who in this case is the Government.

It is wiser for members of PTUZ to go for binding arbitration as reasonable and justified grievances will be better heard and resolved by the responsible authorities instead of striking or embarking on go-slow.

A go-slow by teachers is a big threat to the education sector. It paralyses service delivery by the teachers. Additionally, a go-slow causes frustration in parents who would have made an effort to pay their children’s school fees in full for the term.

Dialogue and negotiations are advantageous in the sense that employees will be at work and there will be no interruptions in schools. Additionally, the PTUZ members should take a leaf from Teachers Union of Zimbabwe’s Chief Executive Officer, Manuel Nyawo, who was against the idea of an industrial action.

Quoted in a local daily press, Nyawo said; “We only met Government last week and we agreed on the way forward, where they promised to stagger bonus payments. It would appear to us that other unions have an agenda to cause unnecessary mayhem in the country. Let us give space for dialogue, and if it is stalled, we can then act otherwise. We encourage all our teachers to report for duty”.

Industrial action must not be taken lightly. It has many negative impacts that do not only affect the employer but the employees as well. It is also pertinent to note that strikes damage property and other public goods.

It is imperative to note that there is no legal protection in criminal law for strikers or organisers who break the law, for example intentional damaging of property or trespassing. The police should not hesitate to arrest anyone found on the wrong side of the law.

A number of strikes have been done in the country but without fruition. So, PTUZ members should avoid falling in the same hole as this will not resolve any dispute. What Zimbabwe needs right now is everyone to work towards building our beloved nation. Strikes, go-slows or any such endeavours have a tendency of destruction which we don’t want right now.

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