The South African Federation of Trade Unions sends a message of solidarity and support to the public-sector workers of Zimbabwe who are striking against cuts in their living standards
Doctors have just ended a 40-day strike for better pay and conditions and in protest at lack of drugs in hospitals. Now the baton has been passed to the teachers. The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA), says its members will strike, as spiralling inflation has left them unable to buy basic goods and fuel that are in short supply. ZIMTA and other unions have issued a 14-day notice to the government of their intention to strike and for their wags to paid in US dollars.
SAFTU backs the call by Education International for the government to quickly act to improve teachers’ conditions of service. “Failure to do so will further drive teachers into abject poverty, while fuelling the deterioration of quality teaching and learning in Zimbabwean schools,” warned ZIMTA National General Secretary, Tapson Nganunu Sibanda.
All other state employees have now threatened to follow the doctors and teachers. The Apex Council, which represents 16 public sector unions, has given the government the required two-week notice of industrial action and civil servants will stop work within 14 days unless the government addresses the impact of inflation on their salaries and meets their demands.
Prices in Zimbabwe are rising at the fastest pace since a hyper-inflationary spiral in 2008, when inflation hit 500 billion percent, and there is a scarcity of foreign currency that is caused a shortage of food and fuel.
With not enough hard currency to back up funds in bank accounts, the value of electronic money has plummeted. That is why these workers are demanding that they be paid hard cash in US dollars. “If they do not pay us in U.S. dollars or an equivalent, we are going on a fully fledged strike,” said Apex deputy chairman Thomas Muzondo.
Vincent Hungwe, the chairman of the Public Service Commission that employs civil servants, has already promised to meet unions and make an offer to expand cost-of-living payments and propose a new pension scheme.
But any serious move to compensate workers by increasing wages will contravene a call by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut the fiscal deficit by more than half and bring down the public service wage bill from more than 90% of the budget to 70%, in the hope that will attract foreign investors and boost growth and investment.
This sends a warning to the workers of South Africa and other developing countries of the dangers of deals with neocolonial capitalist institutions like the IMF, or trying to comply with policies enforced by credit rating agencies.
All that these exploiters want is to boost the profits of international big business, by forcing governments to adopt austerity budgets and cut spending on vital services like education and healthcare..
Just as in South Africa, workers and poor consumers are being forced to bear the cost of a crisis for which they are not at all responsible. In both countries the economic crisis is the result of failing to escape from the capitalist economy bequeathed by the former colonial and apartheid regimes.
SAFTU also condemns the arrest of 10 members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe who were picketing at a park in central Harare. There was a heavy presence of police with water canon elsewhere in the capital at the time.
And the federation demands the unconditional release of seven Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders who have been accused of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence in October 2018.
Their trial was supposed to start on 7 January but they approached the High Court seeking a review against a Harare magistrate’s ruling to place them on remand. They demanded that they should stand trial and prove their innocence, as they insist that there was nothing criminal about their alleged conduct. The case was postponed to January 28.
Workers of the world unite!
An injury to one is an injury to all!