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University Faculty In Zimbabwe Reject Pay Raise Offer - 2004-03-17


The faculty at Zimbabwe's leading state university has rejected a government offer of a pay increase and decided to continue a strike that has shut down the university for weeks.

The strike has crippled the University of Zimbabwe, the country's oldest institution of higher learning, for well over a year, and it is spreading.

The faculty decision not to go to work was made at a meeting Wednesday, two days after the ministry of education granted the teachers a 280 percent pay raise and other allowances backdated to January.

The on-again-off-again strike started in late 2002 with the lecturers demanding substantial pay increases to cushion them from the country's spiraling inflation, which stands at more than 600 percent.

In 2003, the university failed to open at the beginning of the academic year after the lecturers did not turn up. They went back to work only after a panel was appointed to look into their demands. But the government did not follow the panel's recommendations on pay and the faculty went back on strike.

The lecturers say the government's 280-percent pay raise offer falls far short of the panel's recommendations.

A spokesman of the Association of University Teachers, James Mahlaule, says non-academic staff, which is also on strike, rejected the pay offer as well. The strike has spread to four other state universities.

The University of Zimbabwe employs about 12 hundred teaching staff, but according to Mr. Malhaule, about three quarters of the lecturers have left the institution. He said some went to work in the private sector and others joined the exodus of thousands of Zimbabweans seeking a better life abroad.

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