July 29, 2008

Zimbabwe University Lecturers Threaten to Go on Strike Over Pay

Text of report by privately-owned Zimbabwean weekly newspaper The Standard website on 28 July

[Report by Nqolwani Nyathi: "Varsity Lecturers Threaten Strike Over Pay Grievances"]

Lecturers at state universities, who have been on a go slow for the past three weeks, demanding salaries of US$1 200 for the least paid academic staff have threatened to down tools this week if their grievances are not met.

The Zimbabwe State Universities Union of Academics (Zisua), which represents lecturers from the seven government-run universities met at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) on Friday where they made the demands.

The academics join a long list of professionals who are now rejecting remuneration in local currency, whose value is depreciating on a daily basis against major currencies.

"We will inform the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education by Monday of our intention to go on strike indefinitely if our grievances are not met," said a Zisua official on condition he was not named.

"The lecturers want their salaries pegged at the prevailing interbank rate or US$1 200 for the least paid and this is a big climb down from the US$2 000 that we had asked from the ministry."

The least paid lecturer is said to have earned $80 billion last month, an amount not even enough for a two-way commuter bus fare.

The academics are also demanding vehicle loans and housing stands before they can resume their duties. Similar benefits were recently extended to health professionals who were given cars by government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

"The government demonstrated that it had the ability to meet these demands and we are not going back to work until they are met," said the official. "If it can embark on such an extensive farm mechanisation programme and offer such incentives to health workers, what is stopping it from extending those benefits to people who are helping train vital manpower for the nation?"

The disgruntlement among academics at the universities reached fever pitch this month as they started a go-slow in frustration.

The official said operations were almost at a standstill at the University of Zimbabwe, Nust, Lupane State University, Chinhoyi State University, Masvingo State University and Bindura University of Science and Technology.

"I can confirm that even non-academic staff members have stopped coming to work because they are not happy with what their employer is paying them," said Nust Educators' Association chairperson, Sam Chabwira.

Stan Mudenge, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, was not immediately available for comment.

Standards at state universities continue to suffer from a serious brain drain that has seen lecturers migrating to neighbouring countries in search of greener pastures.

Originally published by The Standard website, Harare, in English 28 Jul 08.

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