Teachers could join service centre strike

2009-04-16 00:00

Teachers in the province may stop work in the coming days in sympathy with administrative staff who are already on strike.

If the teacher strike goes ahead, it will cut further into teaching time this term, which is already a mere 49 days long as a result of all the public holidays.

Teachers are making plans to throw their weight behind the Pietermaritzburg Service Centre strike, now in its fourth week. The teachers will be protesting over their own money-related issues.

Tensions escalated on Wednesday as strikers urinated in passages and emptied bins all over the third floor of the Old Mutual building in Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street, bringing work to a halt.

The non-striking employees, who have been pelted with eggs and tomatoes in the past, said things have been out of control for some time now.

But the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said the employer (the Education Department) should be blamed for the destruction, adding that its “unwavering arrogance”is behind the prolonged strike.

A source said the PMB Service Centre was a scene of chaos as the stick-wielding strikers intimidated non-striking staff members, emptied bins and rummaged through refrigerators.

Sadtu spokesman Sipho “KK” Nkosi said that if anyone is to blame, it is MEC Ina Cronje and superintendent-general Cassius Lubisi.

“I warned them and pleaded with them to pay workers. But the employer has stuck to its guns by hiding behind the legal opinion story.”

He said it is only natural for a strike to become violent if prolonged “due to frustrations”.

Sadtu served notice of intention to strike last month, but the process was interrupted by the school holidays.

He said the ignored problems, exacerbated by what he called racism and outstanding money owed to the service centre employees, have prompted the union to submit a total of 13 demands covering all sectors in the department.

This includes outstanding issues related to teachers, administrative staff in schools, offices and FET colleges and security staff.

Police confirmed that a case of intimidation is being investigated and will be forwarded to the senior public prosecutor for a decision upon completion.

Democratic Alliance spokesman for education in the province MPL Roger Burrows called for Cronje to immediately issue a statement to clarify what is happening in departmental offices, both at headquarters and in regional offices.

He said it is totally unacceptable that certain payments have been held up and administration has come to a halt in a department that employs over 100 000 staff while the strike has dragged on without resolution.

In a statement, Lubisi said all its offices are open and functioning normally despite attempts by a group of striking employees to incite employees to join in.

He said employees have been advised that participation in the strike will lead to disciplinary action in addition to the application of the “no work no pay” policy.

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