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NHLANGANO – Some schools were found with empty classrooms. This, after thousands of teachers abandoned work to vote for the authorisation of a mass strike action proposed for next week.

The teachers joined other civil servants, who started the balloting process for the authorisation of the industrial action, which marks a hectic negotiation season for their employer.

 Government is currently at loggerheads with its employees over a cost-of-living adjustment dispute.
Yesterday’s voting process follows the uncertainty which marked the first day of schools, as parents had not been sure of whether to release children, as by the end of last week, there were already rumours doing rounds that teachers would not be going to work.

While the day began with empty classrooms for some, other schools had their lessons disrupted as teachers locked themselves in meetings behind closed doors in their staffrooms immediately after the morning prayer sessions.

This was where the decision to release the pupils was eventually taken.
Thereafter, all roads led to the different centres across the country where the teachers held their vote. The plan to go ahead with a mass strike action countrywide gained momentum over the past week after negotiations over the cost-of-living adjustment with government deadlocked.

This was after government offered a zero per cent increase for the civil servants’ salaries, citing economic hardships. Public servants unions, including teachers under the banner of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), subsequently proposed the strike authorisation vote.

“Our hands are still open for a better offer from the employer. But as things stand, the negotiation didn’t yield any positive result, which resulted in where we are today,” explained SNAT Secretary General Zwelithini Mndzebele, when called upon to elaborate on the balloting process.

Mndzebele said details on the outcome of the vote could be expected early next week, after the completion of the counting process with CMAC.
The situation, once again, throws a deep pall of uncertainty over whether pupils would be able to go back to class, with parents being the most worried as some of the children –especially those writing external exams – are expected to sit for their papers in a few weeks’ time.

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