Deputies fight pay accord

2009-12-31 00:00

A GROUP of KwaZulu-Natal teachers comprising heads of department and deputy school principals are preparing to go to court to challenge the effects of an agreement under which teachers who are on a lower level can earn the same salary or more than their senior counterparts.

The agreement was signed by the national Education Department and trade unions in March 2006, but is alleged to have been effective from 2003.

It was motivated by a need to improve the career prospects for post- level one teachers and allow their salaries to escalate without them having to be promoted to the next available post.

The agreement was designed to enable the department to retain the services of long-standing teachers who may otherwise have left the profession because of a lack of vacancies.

However, heads of department and deputy principals say a consequence of the so-called “master teacher” programme is that they now find themselves in a position where they earn the same salary or even less than level one “master teachers”.

A total of 141 affected teachers referred the dispute to the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) in September this year, alleging it to be an unfair labour practice. Senior commissioner Richard Lyster ruled, however, that the dispute does not relate to an unfair labour practice that ELRC may arbitrate, but is an issue relating to remuneration over which the ELRC has no jurisdiction.

Lyster said it is clear that the applicants in the case sought an increase in their salaries to put them into a position in which their grade seniority and their responsibilities are recognised. He commented that this is “not an unreasonable claim” on their part, but said the dispute could not be dealt with by the ELRC.

“Should the applicants seek to overturn the resolution itself on the basis of discrimination or any other ground, they … must approach the labour court or the high court for that purpose,” he said.

A representative of the affected teachers, Dev Naidoo, told The Witness that the group is preparing to lodge a high court application and added that it is possible that teachers from other provinces could join in.

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