Government workers in Zimbabwe struck for four days last week, demanding a doubling of their wages, medical insurance and travel allowances.
Zimbabwe has 236,000 civil service workers, including teachers. Many earn as little as £160 a month, which is less than half the government’s recognised poverty line. Unions argue that workers on this level need a doubling of income.
The Apex Council, which represents all of Zimbabwe’s public sector unions, had originally called the strike for five days from Monday to Friday.
It sent its members back in to work on Wednesday when the government offered talks. But, disappointed by the government’s offer, the unions restarted the strike on Thursday.
Apex Council chairperson and Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Tendai Chikowore responded to the government offer on Wednesday.
She said, “We are left with no option but to return to the trenches tomorrow as originally planned. Let’s continue the strike and effectively turn up in large numbers.”
Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union (PTU), called the offer “pathetic”.
He said, “Government representatives said they only had a mandate to offer civil servants $240 million [£150 million].”
Vladimir Mashayamombe of the International Socialist Organisaton said, 'Before the strike started workers at a labour forum organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union began to moot the concept of a general strike and mass demonstration.
'But the trade union bureaucrats' vacillations that paused the strike after two days for negotiations threw workers into shock. Amid this confusion the strike is continuing albeit weak, betrayed and directionless.
'In cases like this it is paramount for left comrades to encourage strikers through solidarity marches, leaflets and newsletters. We have to expose the trade union bureaucracy in its alliance with an uncaring government of questionable legitimacy.'
Zimbabwe’s government is an uncomfortable coalition between Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Public service minister Lucia Matibenga is an MDC member and former trade unionist. But she has accused the strikers of being “rogue trade unionists”.
PTU general secretary Raymond Majongwe said, “You cannot become part of government then say ‘this is outside my hands, I have no control’. We don’t want figureheads who drive flashy cars but don’t control anything.”
Strikers took to the streets of the capital Harare last Friday, accusing bosses of threatening to fire them instead of addressing their demands.
The International Socialist Organisation is Socialist Workers sister organisation in Zimbabwe. Go to http://isozim.blogspot.com