'Educators don't qualify for free tertiary education or housing'

Sadtu slams wage increase freeze for teachers

Image: paylessimages / 123RF Stock Photo

The South African Teachers Union (Sadtu) has described the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) delivered by finance minister Tito Mboweni on Wednesday as a slap in the face to hard-working educators and public servants.

The finance minister proposed that public service wage increases be frozen for the next three years.

Sadtu deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi said the minister’s statement has left the largest teachers' union and the public sector with no joy. Dolopi said public servants are going to be trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and vulnerable to loan sharks to make ends meet.

“On the education front, we can see education is no longer regarded as an apex priority as it has been lumped together with culture to receive R1.2-trillion. The R600m to employ early childhood development practitioners and social workers is not enough. Early childhood development is at the moment not formalised and yet it is an anchor for any quality education. Early childhood educators currently do not receive all the benefits that teachers in the public service do receive,” Dolopi said.

Dolopi said the union does not support the ministers call to forge a new consensus on public-sector employee compensation which is outside of the agreed upon bargaining structures.

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“Although the thrust of the statement is focused on the poor, teachers who are in the 'missing middle' are equally vulnerable. They are regarded as too rich for their children to receive free tertiary education and yet they cannot afford it. They are also regarded too rich to receive housing subsidies from government and yet they cannot afford to buy houses. The statement is silent on the government employee housing scheme that we have been long been calling for,” Dolopi said.

He said the minister’s statement was the worst form of provocation and an open attack on collective bargaining.

“The statement by the minister makes a mockery of the call to a build a capable, effective and efficient development state. There is no way in which you can achieve such a state with public servants who are hungry and cant afford even a meal, nor to feed their families. Such unhappy, overworked, demoralised workers will never be in a position to deliver the quality service which the president always speaks about,” he said.

Dolopi said with no increases on the horizon, teachersplight will worsen and they will retire more poor as they will have to rely on their retirement even before they retire because the government will now present legislation next year to allow for limited pre-retirement withdrawals under certain circumstances.

"Teachers will be forced to rely on these to send their children to tertiary education and for housing and to make ends meet. The future is bleak,” he said.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni tabled his medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) on October 28 2020. Many called this particular one a 'balancing act' in light of SA's having to rebuild its economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Government spending and debt, SAA rescue plan and the State Capture Commission of Inquiry were just some of the topics covered in his address.

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