BY EVERSON MUSHAVA

TEACHERS have described the recent decision by the Apex Council to accept a paltry 140% salary hike from government that will result in the least paid government worker getting paid $2 400, as “a great betrayal”.

The educators’ unions, most of whom have distanced themselves from the Apex Council, are clamouring for a US$500 interbank-rated salary for the least-paid civil servant.

But the Apex Council yesterday defended its decision to accept the salary hike, saying it was under pressure from its impoverished membership to accept anything that could alleviate their situation while negotiations for interbank-rated salaries continued.

The Apex Council, the umbrella body of all civil servant worker unions, on Monday accepted a 140% salary hike at a National Joint Negotiating Council meeting in Victoria Falls that ran parallel to an all stakeholders workshop.

In defending the move to accept 140% salary hike, Apex Council spokesperson David Dzatsunga said they accepted the offer as a temporary measure to alleviate the suffering of members while negotiations continue. He said the decision was made in consultation with the Apex Council membership.

“This was so because the Apex Council had pressure from its membership facing real poverty and desperation,” Dzatsunga said. “The agreement that was reached is, therefore, a short-term stop-gap measure while we continue to negotiate for interbank rated salaries which is the only panacea to the restoration of the lost value of wages. Let it be known that Apex Council negotiators are mere instruments of their membership who are the real decision makers.”

But Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, whose union pulled out of the Apex Council last year, said the 140% did not address the teachers’ dispute of “right and interest emanating from the unilateral and banditry reduction of teachers’ salaries from an average of US$500 to US$35 by government.”

“Fundamentally, the panacea to our current quagmire is not a salary increase or cushion, but restoration of our purchasing power parity. The 140% does not restore our purchasing power parity,” Zhou said.

“It falls far short of teachers’ minimum expectations and such half-hearted and fire-fighting measures would not capacitate teachers and let alone bring normalcy and meaningful learning and teaching to schools.”

He added: “It is indicative of the great betrayal by the Apex Council for selfish reasons. It confirms our long held view that Apex Council is a moribund body, a group of traitors engaged in fire-fighting and romance on behalf of government.”

He said it would remain a mystery how teachers earning about $2 500 will be able to send their children to boarding schools now charging between $7 000 and $15 000 per term.

Teachers declared incapacitation towards the end of last year to pressure government to hike their salaries which had been reduced to an equivalent of about US$30. Government, however, insisted it does not have money and refused to pay its workers the US$ bank-rated salaries, creating a potential showdown until the Apex Council accepted a 140% pay offer to avert a crippling strike.