KZN education therapists look for better deal

2013-05-30 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Education Department could see an exodus of education therapists from special schools as they have failed to adjust their salaries as agreed.

In September last year, Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) Collective Agreement No. 1 of 2012 was signed and the department agreed to pay a five percent gratuity to therapists and also revise salary notches within three months of signing the document.

But three months have passed and this has not materialised.

The agreement also covers counsellors and psychologists employed in public education.

Therapists who spoke to The Witness asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

One with 15 years’ experience said her take-home pay was R9 000 after deductions.

“We’re so upset … even the Grade R teachers are going to receive their 25% increase, but we’ve been fighting for five years for our occupational-specific dispensation,” she said.

The woman said 90% of the therapists were women and that she believed the department was discriminating against them.

She was concerned that they were losing young therapists to the health sector.

A physiotherapist from Durban said she had decided to resign.

“To say I have reached the limit is an understatement. And no one at the department seems to care about us,” she said.

Their salaries have dropped as their medical aid and pension contributions have increased.

“They seem to think it’s okay to lose good therapists. At the end of the day, these amazing children at our schools suffer,” she added.

Another therapist said she and a colleague were looking for opportunities overseas, because she believes that this “saga” will never be resolved.

A frustrated therapist said he had called and e-mailed President Jacob Zuma, but to no avail.

Anthony Pierce of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa said thousands of rands were owed to therapists.

Pierce said the union was sitting with a three-year-old problem that has not been addressed.

“It’s an exodus because lots of people are now going to private practice and they’re very angry,” he said.

In a letter to Pierce, Finance MEC Ina Cronjé said the Education Department was in no position to implement the agreement unless it received funding from the National Treasury.

She wrote that the province suffered significant budget cuts of R6,772 billion over the 2013/14 medium-term expenditure framework period.

This was due to the shift in equitable shares from KZN to other provinces which had resulted in the department losing R2,576 billion.

Meanwhile, the ERLC has sent a compliance order to the department’s head, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, and gave the department 14 days to respond.

Attempts to get comment from the department were unsuccessful at the time of going to print.

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