Zimbabwe women teachers protest curb on maternity leaves

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ZIMBABWE – A teachers union in Zimbabwe is protesting the government’s limit on the number of paid maternity leaves its women members can receive to just three.

The national Public Service Commission, which oversees civil servants, and other government agencies have been ordered to find ways to reduce the government’s wage bill. Zimbabwe’s government workforce increased to 554,000 earlier in 2015, up from 315,000 in 2009.

The Commission’s focus on pregnant workers has prompted labor unions to demand a review of working conditions.

Shamiso Makumbe, vice president of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) said the government will only pay the women’s full salaries while on maternity leave three times. After that, their pay is slashed.

“This is unfair and we want this to be addressed,” Makumbe said.

According to the Zimbabwean constitution adopted last year, all female employees are entitled to up to three months maternity leave, according to the Zimbabwean constitution adopted last year. But Zimta officials say their union’s members are limited in the number of children they can have if they are only able to enjoy the full benefits of a maternity leave three times.

Labor experts said that restricting the number of maternity leaves applies only to women who have worked for just one employer. The experts said the law is unconstitutional, but it has yet to be challenged in court.

Zimbabwe’s government is the country’s largest employer and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa earlier this year demanded an audit of the civil service. Last month, as a result of the audit, more than 3,000 teachers were not paid.

On Saturday,  about 1,000 qualified teachers had lost their jobs under the government’s staff audit.

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