Strike brewing as exams draw near

2010-07-20 00:00

WHILE attention should be focused on finishing the syllabus and preparing for trial exams, rolling mass action by teachers across the country is threatened after a deadlock in the bargaining council over salary negotiations.

Taking into account the recent extended holidays to accommodate the World Cup and the timing of the proposed strike, the effects are likely to be worse than those of the mass action taken in 2007.

The Department of Basic Education was counting down 100 days to the final examination on Friday, alerting pupils “to get organised now and not to delay another day”, while encouraging both teachers and parents to give the matric class of 2010 the necessary support.

On the same day, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) announced a possible strike after rejecting the government’s proposed 6,5% increase.

The union is demanding an 8,6% increase and a R1 000 housing allowance, while the state appears to be prepared to pay a 6,5% and only R650 as a housing allowance.

Sadtu national deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi told The Witness yesterday that different provin­ces are consulting their members about a way forward until Friday, after which a decision will be made.

“It is our view that our members cannot afford the cost of living. Every year we see escalations in prices and yet teachers are always at the bottom of the chain.

“They can’t afford to buy houses, they can’t afford their children’s school and university fees and they can’t afford the exorbitant price of electricity,” said Dolopi.

Cosatu, along with the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC), representing 14 unions and about 1,3 million employees in the public sector, have been heading the negotiations.

ILC chairperson Chris Klopper told The Witness that mass action is a strong possibility because of the reluctance by the Public Service and Administration Department to acknowledge civil servants’ demands.

Klopper added that settlements in the labour market currently range from eight percent to 13%, with the latest settlement being that of Eskom — nine percent and R1 500 for housing allowance.

One local principal believes the timing of the looming strike could not be worse.

“We have 88 days left and we are now getting the kids back into gear after the long holidays. There is pressure to get the syllabus completed,” said the principal.

Another teacher added that the state needs to appreciate the efforts the teachers put in by remunerating them accordingly to avoid losing the best teachers to the private sector.

Siphesihle Nzuza, provincial deputy chair of the Congress of South African Students, said they will not support the teachers’ decision to strike this year, since this will put pupils’ studies in danger.

Sayed Rajack, senior leader of the KZN Parents’ Association, said tht whether the government is failing to negotiate fairly or whether the teachers’ demands are unreasonable, their children are being held to ransom.

He said the results over the years are proof enough of this.

The National Association of Professional Teachers of SA has unequivocally confirmed that it has no intentions to strike. Its provincial spokesperson, Anthony Pierce, said they will continue to negotiate.

Allan Thompson, spokesperson for the National Teachers’ Union, said the union is busy with its balloting process to determine whether its members support a strike. He said indications are that it is imminent.

He said the government’s stubbornness could see teachers kiss their commitment goodbye.

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