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Cablegate: Teachers Score "Victory", Call Off Strikes

VZCZCXRO0400
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0156/01 0591443
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281443Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1165
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1485
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1341
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1489
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0175
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0750
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1115
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1544
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3941
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1312
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1968
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC//DHO-7//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1706
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//
RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000156

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR S. HILL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
USAID FOR M. COPSON AND E. LOKEN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ELAB PGOV PREL ZI
SUBJECT: TEACHERS SCORE "VICTORY", CALL OFF STRIKES

REF: HARARE 00082

-------
Summary
-------

1. (U) On February 23 both the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association
(ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe
(PTUZ) called off strikes that had crippled numerous schools
throughout the country. Teachers returned to work after the
Civil Service Association Apex Council, which represents all
civil servants including teachers, accepted the government's
offer of Z$528,000 (about US$72.00) as a minimum wage for
teachers. The increased salaries, which are still below the
poverty datum line (PDL), are not pegged to the country,s
soaring inflation.

2. (U) ZIMTA and PTUZ leaders were disappointed with the
final agreement but feared the government was ready to follow
through on threats to fire striking teachers. In a broader
context, the end of the strikes only temporarily alleviates
the government's fear that the labor unrest could spread to
other civil servant sectors and cause serious problems for
the struggling regime. Moreover, by giving in to the
teachers' demands, the GOZ has set a precedent for further
wage increases to the rest of the civil service which will
only fuel more (hyper) inflation. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --
Teachers Try To Leverage Spreading Labor Unrest
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (U) Teachers began the year hoping to take advantage of
momentum started with a spate of recent strikes across the
public sector, including actions by workers at the public
electric company, by junior doctors and nurses at public
hospitals, and by lecturers and students at public
universities. Separately, ZIMTA and PTUZ leadership were
seeking to force the government to significantly increase
teachers' salaries and benefits.

4. (U) The PTUZ labor action began on January 31 when the
group's activist secretary general, Raymond Majongwe, called
for a "go-slow" by its 17,000 members (reftel). The PTUZ
action showed signs of success as teachers at a number of
schools throughout the country came to work, but refused to
teach. At the time, ZIMTA, commonly seen as the more
"government-friendly" of the two unions, opted to continue
negotiating rather than join the strike.

5. (U) After weeks of futile negotiations, however, the ZIMTA
leadership called for its 55,000 members to go out on strike
on February 20. Peter Mabande, chief executive officer for
ZIMTA, told poloff on February 21 that ZIMTA hoped to exert
leverage on the GOZ through the government,s fear that the
ZIMTA strike could spark wider labor unrest in other civil
service sectors. (Note: ZIMTA President Tendai Chikowore
also currently serves as the Chairperson of the Civil Servant
Association Apex Council, which represents all 180,000 civil
servants, including teachers. End Note.)

6. (U) As the Apex Council leadership negotiated with the
Public Services Commission, the PTUZ and ZIMTA strikes
succeeded in shutting down numerous schools throughout the
country, especially in the high-density suburbs of the

HARARE 00000156 002 OF 002


capital city Harare and the second city Bulawayo.
Additionally, there were growing rumors that other civil
servants were ready to join the strike.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Final Agreement Falls Short Of Teachers' Demands
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (U) The teachers' key demand was for the government to
"link" salaries to the poverty datum line (PDL), the minimum
monthly amount required to meet basic needs for an average
family of five currently set by the government at Z$566,400
(about US$77.00). This would allow teachers' salaries to be
increased automatically on a periodic basis to keep pace with
inflation. (Note: For over a year government and business
have successfully ignored demands from the broader labor
movement to link wages to the PDL. End Note.) In the end,
the teachers accepted a total sub-PDL minimum pay package of
Z$528,000 per month (about US$72.00), which was not indexed
to the country's soaring inflation.

-------------------
A Strategic Retreat
-------------------

8. (U) Mabande told us the government negotiators claimed
that its final offer included the full amount of salary
increments for teachers the government had set aside for the
entire year; there was nothing more and, absent a deal, the
government,s next step was to arrest ZIMTA and PTUZ
leadership for calling illegal strikes and to fire striking
teachers. Mabande thought that accepting the offer was in
teachers, best interest.

9. (U) Majongwe, on the other hand, believed that the strike
and risk it could spread across all civil service sectors
posed a significant threat to the government. He maintained
to us that the Apex Council had "sold-out" by accepting a bad
deal. Nevertheless, PTUZ, as the smaller union, and without
the support of ZIMTA, was forced into a &strategic
retreat.8

-------
Comment
-------

10. (SBU) There were no winners in this settlement. With the
threat of being arrested, beaten and fired, teachers opted to
save their job, and accepted limited wage increases.
However, te government bought only a temporary peace and in
several months time, when inflation has eroded th pay
increase, is likely to face renewed labor urest on the part
of the teachers. In the intervl, the government has also
set itself up for demands from other public sector workers
for similar ay increase, which it also can,t afford.
Eventually the government will face the wide-spread public
employee strikes it narrowly averted this time around. End
Comment.
DELL

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