'Suicidal' to accept state's offer - union
Petro-Anne Morkel and Lunga Biyela, News24
Cape Town – Accepting the state’s current offer of a 7% salary increase and R700 per month housing allowance would amount to “suicide”, said the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) on Wednesday.
“As Sadtu we will never sign on the dotted line accepting (the state’s) offer,” Sadtu Western Cape chairperson Bongani Mconyana said to a crowd of approximately 600 union members at Oscar Mpetha High School in Nyanga.
“Accepting such an offer would be suicidal on our side. It will be the rope we hang ourselves with.”
Sadtu is demanding an 8.6% salary increase, a R1 000 housing allowance per month and the equalisation of medical aid subsidies for members who don’t use the Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems).
Sadtu declared yesterday that it had rejected the state’s offer and would commence with a strike today.
Responsible and reasonable
“We have been very responsible and reasonable… we only went (on strike) for one day to say to the employer that we mean business,” said Mconyana.
“But enough is enough. The employer engaged us yesterday, the same as last week, and said that you (members) will be happy with a mere R70.”
The state has recently conceded to raise their proposed housing allowance by R70 from R630 to R700.
Mconyana said that Sadtu’s decision to strike until its demands are met will benefit all teachers and public service workers. “We demand 8.6%, we demand R1 000 and we demand the equalisation of medical aid.
"A basic demand not to be enjoyed by us only, but by every teacher and every public servant.”
A programme of action, which laid out the union’s intended strike itinerary, was circulated among members. Sadtu expects their members to picket in strategic points along roads tomorrow, said Mconyana.
This will be followed by branch marches on August 23 and provincial marches on August 26, he added.
“But I hope that the programme will end today, so that we can be back at work tomorrow… If the employers say here is 8.6%, R1 000 and equalised medical aid, Sadtu’s executive will command all of you to go back to school at once.”
Grade 12 pupils at the high school told News24 they were worried that the strike could affect their final exam preparations.
“Time is running out… we were away from school for a long time during the World Cup,” they said as they gathered outside of the classrooms.
Even though they felt they were badly affected by the strike, they said they supported the teachers in what they were trying to do.
“There is still a lot of work that we haven’t done this year, but we support our teachers in what they are trying to achieve.”
Of their hopes after finishing high school, they said they were uncertain. “We are applying to tertiary institutions. But, if we do not learn, we will not get the marks we desire.
“We have big dreams, but we do not think we will realise them should this strike go on any longer,” they said.
Teachers at the meeting said they were concerned about the pupils, but the circumstances were forcing them to strike.
“We have given them extra activities and assignments as we do not know how long this strike will last,” they told News24.
“The government is not listening to us… they are busy looking after themselves and lining their pockets.”
A teacher’s salary is equal to that of labourers in Parliament, they said adding that their pupils lost respect for them once they finished school and found better paying jobs.
“The situation is such that pupils tell themselves that they will never become teachers because of our situation.”