The country’s biggest teachers’ union - Sadtu - has called on its members to go on strike and to challenge “their low salaries”.
The teachers have also been urged to protest against the decision by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to reinstate Bobby Soobrayan as director-general of education.
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke told the media on Tuesday that the country was experiencing a mass exodus of teachers – between 6 000 and 7 000 a year – due to low salaries.
He claimed that those teachers – most of them young – resigned and claimed their pensions in their bid to settle their “escalating debts”.
“How can you expect a teacher with more than 15 years in service to buy a house with a R900 housing allowance?”
He said the department had been delaying implementing the pay progression of teachers from 1 percent to 1.5 percent, equal to that of other public servants.
Sadtu served the notice to strike on Tuesday following their national working committee meeting at their national headquarters in Joburg.
Maluleke said they would ballot their members to strike as from Wednesday and would announce a final decision at the weekend.
The decision to strike would be ratified at the union’s national executive meeting on Friday and Saturday.
“We are appalled by the manner in which the Department of Basic Education has been handling the matter of the 0.5 percent parity for the teachers. The matter has been dragging unduly for almost five years, with the department applying all sorts of delaying tactics to the utter dismay of the teachers.
“The department has not shown any sense of urgency in resolving the matter and we see this as a deliberate attempt to undermine collective bargaining and reverse our gains as teachers,” Maluleke said.
The fact that there was “clearly no logic behind this disparity’ had prompted his union to strike.
“The Department of Basic Education under the current leadership has once again proven beyond reasonable doubt that it treats the sector as a priority area only when it comes to policing teachers,” Maluleke said.
The union has also accused Motshekga of having undermined recommendations of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to take stern action against Soobrayan for “improper conduct and maladministration in the acquisition of teaching and learning material.”
Sadtu claimed that Soobrayan had contravened basic principles of the Public Finance Management Act by allegedly signing without any mandate “a major collective agreement”.
While Soobrayan was acquitted on all charges against him by an independent inquiry, the union claimed the acquittal was a fabrication.
Motshekga’s spokesman, Panyaza Lesufi, said the call for strike action was “premature.”
“We have noted calls for a strike by Sadtu but we believe these calls are premature and baseless. The minister will immediately dispatch a high-level team led by our deputy minister to meet with Sadtu.
“The minister has also received a letter from Sadtu requesting a meeting. The minister is considering the request favourably,” Lesufi said.