In our issue of The Herald yesterday (December 16, 2013), we carried a story indicating that civil servants representatives were divided on who their negotiators with Government are. This, it was reported, was scuttling the negotiation process and was partly to blame for delays in the awarding of salary increments to civil servants.
We find these squabbles deplorable and a great disservice to the lot of hardworking civil servants. This is especially so given the allegations that people appointed to represent civil servants in the negations are playing power games and fighting for personal positions.
Our concern is that one of the biggest constituencies in these negations are teachers. The need to improve the welfare of teachers cannot be overstressed given the critical national task they perform in the overall development of any nation.
President Mugabe has already indicated that civil servants must be paid decent salaries that reflects their social status and their important role in educating the nation. Zanu-PF also adopted a resolution at its recent Annual National People’s Conference in Chinhoyi that civil servants should be given salaries that compare favourably with the poverty datum line.
We find it irresponsible for the leadership of civil servants’ representatives, in the light of these positive indications from Government and the ruling party, that they should be haggling over who should be sitting with the minister at the negating table instead of focusing on a better pay cheque and improved working conditions for those they claim to represent.
We don’t believe that teachers, in particular, should be left to seek semi-private incentives from parents as a way of supplementing their low salaries. Government should work out a reasonable baseline for teachers’ salaries.
The welfare of our educators cannot be left to private deals at schools between teachers and parents.
Teachers must be able to focus their energies on their professional work. Instead as a nation we appear to be tolerating and institutionalising a dangerous work ethic where civil servants of all kinds supplement their low salaries by selling trinkets during working hours. In the case of teachers, this results in high levels of absenteeism as the teachers cross the border to buy things they want resell. This has in turn resulted in teachers wanting to conduct so-called extra lessens for pupils in primary schools! Parents who appear reluctant to participate in this fraud are blackmailed by being told that some key concepts not covered during the normal lessons will be dealt with during “extra lessons”.
The long and short of this is that parents are fleeced of their hard-earned cash by teachers who insist – rightly so – that they cannot work for peanuts.
It is, therefore, important that the issue of civil servants’ salaries is resolved as quickly as possible. Teachers must start the new term next year with a positive frame of mind.
We, however, don’t believe that teachers should create a Utopia for themselves where all their demands will be met. We are all aware of the state of the economy.
Sanctions or no sanctions, it is a fact that employees rarely get what they want. It is the same in all sectors of the economy, not just Government. Hence our appeal to both Government and its employees to work towards a reasonable compromise that doesn’t leave the employees feeling used or the employer promising what he cannot deliver.
Consequently, we urge civil servants to quickly resolve the issue of negotiators as a matter of urgency. They need people who care about their welfare not those who want to build a constituency as a stepping stone to personal glory.
Civil servants should engage people who are skilled at negotiation and who are also fully aware of the parlous state of the economy.
It is futile to press Government for a salary range which civil servants know cannot be met as this will create a perpetual state of conflict.
Such a state prejudices the nation of a better future and our schools are going to churn out people who have no skills, or desire, to develop the country.