The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) claims its members across the country staged a sit-in on the first day of the 2024 school calendar in protest over poor salaries and working conditions.

The labour union demanded that the government increase the minimum wage from the current US$300 monthly pay to US$1, 260.

ARTUZ said teachers had reported for duty but took heed of the call not to work until the parent ministry accedes to demands for a three-fold salary hike to match the rising cost of living.

“We are waiting for @MoPSEZim (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education) to confirm to the world that morale is very low among teachers and today they took heed of the call to sit in. We hope Gvt announces a salary review soon so that teaching and learning resumes in schools,” posted ARTUZ on its X handle Tuesday.

Last week, the trade union warned educators were suffering under the yoke of the current situation characterised by runaway inflation.

In a recent letter addressed to government ministries, the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Treasury, ARTUZ secretary-general Robson Chere, begged authorities to prioritise teachers’ welfare and ensure quality education by incentivising tutors.

“The current cost of living has risen significantly, and it is imperative that our teachers are adequately compensated to ensure their well-being and to maintain the quality of education in our schools.

“It is evident that the cost of living has been steadily increasing, with inflation impacting various aspects of daily life.

“This includes essential expenses such as housing, utilities, food, and healthcare.

“Teachers, like many other professionals, are feeling the strain of these rising costs, which is affecting their ability to meet their financial obligations and provide for their families,” said the union.

ARTUZ opines the proposed minimum wage of US$1,260 was key to ensuring fairness and strategic investment within the education system, particularly in light of current inflationary trends.

Teachers’ salary increment was a crucial step that would contribute to the retention of experienced educators while attracting fresh and talented individuals to the profession, ARTUZ further argued.

The teachers’ union believes a salary adjustment is necessary and would significantly enhance the overall quality of education, benefiting both educators and learners.

“In addition to that our proposed minimum salary remains the same at US$1,260 would be ideal to address the immediate financial challenges faced by teachers.

“This amount takes into account the rising cost of living and aims to provide a reasonable level of relief for educators and the smooth opening of schools.

“By addressing the issue of inadequate compensation, we can ensure that schools have a stable and dedicated teaching staff, which is essential for maintaining an effective learning environment,” said the union.

ARTUZ also dismissed the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) as an ineffective platform for salary negotiations, failing to adhere to the constitutional provisions of section 165 (3) concerning collective bargaining.

The union urged the government to establish alternative channels for open and meaningful dialogue with teachers’ representatives to address pressing concerns.

Key resolutions from the Working Committee meeting held recently were that teachers should sit in until a salary review is announced and that they organise #BusStopProtests demanding State-funded education. Also, teachers won’t teach the outdated curriculum beyond February 1, 2024.

Efforts to get comment from MoPSE spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro were fruitless by the time of publishing.