Government has noted with concern that some education sector union leaders are threatening to proceed on strike action when schools open for the second term, accusing government of not engaging them on issues to do with conditions of service.
Government has not in any way refused to negotiate with its workers. In 2018 Government has engaged the workers through the APEX Council on Wednesday 4th April, where they met with the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes who is responsible for the Public Service.
They met again on Friday 20 April as the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) where the APEX Council undertook to submit a comprehensive paper outlining their areas of concern.
There are established procedures for conducting negotiations between Government and its workers. This is provided for in terms of Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997 which establishes the Public Service Joint Negotiating Council.
The said instrument provides for the procedure in which worker representatives engage with Government representatives by engaging in mutual consultations and negotiate salaries, allowances and other conditions of service in the Public Service. The APEX Council, which is the elected umbrella body comprising of one members representing Public Service Associations and Unions including those from the Education Sector.
The APEX Council met with Government as a Joint Negotiating Council and the next meeting is scheduled for Friday 4 May to consider the detailed position paper presented by the APEX Council as part of the negotiating process. Under Statutory Instrument 141 of 1997, the National Joint Negotiating Council is required to meet and negotiate for at least three sessions before declaring a deadlock. We have not reached that stage.
Therefore any strike action would not only be unlawful but also highly premature. We must give negotiations a chance. The five Education unions should show respect for the negotiation process rather than undermining it by being confrontational. If these five leaders who are threatening to go on strike are truly representing the workers then they must abandon the confrontational approach and instead follow dialogue as prescribed by law.
The five education sector unions threatened to take strike action without even attempting to give negotiations a chance. Government is, therefore, calling upon all teachers not to participate In this unlawful and highly premature strike action called for by some of the union leaders who may not have the same agenda of improving conditions of service for the teachers.
Government would like to assure all teachers that it is its objective to improve the working conditions of teachers who play a crucial role in the making of future leaders. Furthermore, Government wishes to assure all members of the Civil Service of this same commitment. Government is committed to negotiating with the APEX Council in good faith.
Let us reject any attempt by some leaders in the education sector to hold our children to ransom. Children are our greatest assets. Let us protect their well being and right to education as guaranteed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
I thank you.
Simbarashe S. Mumbengegwi (MP)
02 May 2018
Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes