Posted on October 2, 2010


The massive public sector dispute last year did not end with the calling off of the strike in June. It has continued to rumble on in a series of negotiations with teacher unions — and now there is the prospect that the public sector unions will make another set of double digit pay demands by by July.

The teacher unions did not sign off on the proposals put forward by government last year and are likely again to be to the forefront of a battle by public servants to maintain standards of living in the face of rapidly rising inflation. The independent labour caucus, which brings together unions outside of the Cosatu umbrella, plans to meet on March 17 to discuss the new pay demands.

One of the “big three” unions in the public sector and the country, the independent Public Service Association (PSA) is a member of this caucus, as is the second largest of the teacher unions, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation (Naptosa), which is affiliated to the SA Confederation of Trade Unions.

But Naptosa, like the major union of educators, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) is also still involved in trying to finalise the large amount of unfinished business left over from June of last year. Eight months after the bruising, 28-day strike, negotiations are still underway.

“We will be meeting with the employer next week to try and sort out this matter once and for all,” says Sadtu negotiator and deputy president Thobile Ntona.

Teachers at the chalk face are also champing at the bit since they have yet to receive the 4 per cent pay increase promised for January 1. Government agreed to pay this, but then insisted that it be on the basis of a new salary scale to which the unions have not agreed.

The,package the government put forward to the teachers last year is complex and, according to union negotiators, “very vague” on a number of points.

“The original proposal, which is still on the table, is that teachers, instead of having 16 ‘notches’ or pay progressions over their careers should not have 225,” says Ntola. He maintains that this has the effect of devaluing teacher jobs at a time when there is a desperate need to retain teachers.

Although the government had agreed to increase the pay for new entrant teachers with university degrees, he claims that, under the proposed new system, “pay would begin to fall behind after three or four years”.

According to surveys by the teacher unions, the skills of highly competent teachers are in demand throughout the private sector. There are a number of instances of teachers with five or more years of experience, leavIng the profession for twice the levels of pay.

Adds Ntola: “In terms of status and pay, virtually no teacher will ever make it to the top of the 225 notches and, according to the proposal, only 17 per cent of teachers will achieve an excellent rating and only 33 per cent will be rated good in terms of status and pay.”

The unions are also concerned about the manner in which teachers will be assessed. According to the government’s proposals, part of the assessment will be linked to learner performance. But this takes no cognisance of available resources, class sizes and other conditions that differ markedly from one school to another.

“But we hope when we sit down next week we will not be that far apart and that we can reach agreement with the employer,” says Ntola.

Then the unions will calculate their new demands, based on 9 per cent inflation and estimates of the knock-on effects on this week’s fuel price rise. A demand for 15 per cent should not be unexpected.

Posted in: Archive - 2008