Zimbabwe: Time’s up- no more delays! Teachers’ unions submit petition on collective bargaining rights to Parliament

published 31 October 2019 updated 31 October 2019

On 24 October, two EI affiliates in Zimbabwe, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) submitted a petition to Parliament, calling on the government to grant full collective bargaining rights to public sector workers.

Speaking on behalf of the two unions, Raymond MaMajongwe and Sifiso Ndlovu, said “The government needs to take action now! We are saying time’s up and there should be no further delays!”

The petition notes that under current legislation there is neither protection of the right to organise for public service workers nor any mechanism for negotiation of terms and conditions of employment. While the new Zimbabwe Constitution, adopted in 2013, provides for all employees to engage in collective bargaining apart from members of the security services, to date, successive governments have lacked the political will to amend the relevant public service laws to bring them into conformity.

The two unions are the largest trade unions in the education sector and are calling on the government to ratify ILO Conventions 151 and 154 on collective bargaining in the public sector and to amend the Public Service Act (1995) to grant this right. They are also calling for legislation to clearly define the scope of essential services to exclude the teaching profession in conformity with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association definitions.

Over the last year, PTUZ and ZIMTA have been spearheading a campaign to lobby the government to take action to ratify the Conventions and amend the legislation. They have met with members of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and officials at the Ministry of Public Service to present their case. In June 2019, they organised a successful  ‘indaba’ - a meeting in traditional African culture whereby people come together to resolve issues - with the Parliamentary Committee members, the Ministry of Public Service and the ILO again to present their arguments and lobby for support. Following the indaba, the unions agreed to submit two petitions to Parliament: one on salary and employment conditions and the second on the right to collective bargaining.

The unions have also raised the issue at the June 2019 ILO Conference in Geneva and are mobilising the teaching profession through a signature campaign calling on the government to meet its commitments under the Constitution and to ratify ILO Conventions on collective bargaining in the public sector.