The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) has decided to contravene a court decision and instead go on an open-ended strike over demands for a 4.5 per cent salary increase. The SNAT, an EI affiliate, is extending a two-day action held on 13-14 June, in which over 6,000 teachers participated.
“We can't go against the teachers’ will, and they voted to go on strike,” said SNAT General Secretary Muzi Mhlanga. “They were also aware that there was a court order.”
At least 4,506 teachers voted in the strike ballot, with 4,436 supporting strike action while only 70 opposed it.
The government has taken the union to court after educators started the strike that saw clashes between police and protesters.
Decent salaries for educators
Educators in Swaziland have not had a pay increase since 2010 as King Mswati III's government struggles to finance its massive public wage bill, and protests have grown since last year.
Feeding the unrest is Mswati's lavish lifestyle, while 60 per cent of Swazi people live on less than $2 (€1.59) a day, and the King’s refusal to implement democratic reforms.
Fake negotiation meeting
In a last effort to stop the teachers’ union going on strike indefinitely, the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) called the SNAT National Executive for a meeting.
In this meeting, the union representatives, led by SNAT President Sibongile Mazibuko, were told that the planned strike action was illegal, because they had not followed all procedures. In turn, union leaders told the GNT, which was led by the Education Minister, that it was inappropriate to call them for a meeting, as they would meet only if other civil servants’ unions are also present.
EI calls for fair social dialogue
EI supports its affiliate’s demands for decent salaries for educators, and urges Swazi authorities to engage in fair social dialogue to ensure quality public education for all in the country.