Zimbabwe University Workers Issue Strike Notice Over Poor Pay

Faced with escalating living costs, academic and allied staff demand fair wages, threaten industrial action within two weeks.

by Adenike Adeodun

University staff across Zimbabwe are on the brink of a widespread strike, citing the government’s failure to provide adequate salaries amidst the country’s soaring cost of living. The Zimbabwe State Universities Union of Academics (ZISUUA) and the Zimbabwe Universities and Allied Workers Union (ZUAWU) have jointly issued a 14-day ultimatum to their employer, signaling their readiness to down tools in demand for better remuneration.

In a statement released by the unions, they expressed deep disappointment over the government’s lack of responsiveness to their previous attempts at dialogue. They highlighted the inefficacy of university-led innovation hubs and commercial projects to generate sufficient surplus funds for staff salaries, directly impacting their ability to meet basic living needs.

“Our meagre remuneration has rendered us incapable of affording essentials like food, housing, clothing, transportation, utilities, our children’s education, and healthcare,” the unions stated, underscoring the severity of their financial incapacitation.

According to a report by Newsday, ZUAWU’s secretary-general, Jabulani Mpofu, criticized the Higher and Tertiary Education Ministry for its blanket application of a US$300 component to all university employees, regardless of their position or skill level. This approach, coupled with heavy taxation, leaves little to no net income for the workers. The depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar further exacerbates their plight, with the local currency component of their salaries barely surpassing that of the lowest-paid civil servants.

The situation is made more dire by the Zimbabwe State Universities Councils’ failure to adjust salaries in line with the national poverty datum line. A recent report by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe illustrates the grim reality for many Zimbabwean families, noting that the cost of a basic family basket has nearly doubled in just a few months, driven by the local currency’s steep decline.

As the 14-day notice period progresses, the looming strike threatens to disrupt academic activities across state universities, putting additional pressure on the government to address the urgent demands of university workers for fair and livable wages.

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