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Pretoria - A review of “aggrieved” teachers and their salaries does not mean they’re in line for a pay increase, but is rather intended to see whether the government is getting value for its money from the troubled sector, says Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
The minister also revealed that her department intended to speed up the time it took to resolve misconduct cases in the public service and that suspended public servants would no longer receive pay for months on end.
President Jacob Zuma announced in his State of the Nation address that a presidential remuneration commission would be set up to investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and working conditions of state employees like teachers and police.
This has been welcomed by the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), which has high expectations as a number of its members can’t afford basic necessities like health care and accommodation.
But on Thursday, Sisulu said people shouldn’t assume that the commission will translate into higher salaries for teachers.
She said the government had decided to identify a profession in the public sector to concentrate on and “give it the necessary support and necessary energy”.
“This area we’ve chosen is education. In our negotiations with labour we have been accused of constantly reneging on our commitments to them to revisit the issues of the aggrieved professionals who are called teachers who feel that their summary is mismatched with what the state requires them to do.”
This was a long-standing grievance, Sisulu said.
“It makes sense to us to revisit the remuneration of teachers and nurses and other professions in the public service. Revisiting it does not mean we’re hiking up the salaries. It means that we’ve got to be satisfied that this productivity that we expect from that particular profession matches the salary they get.”
Teachers had been complaining that they had professional qualifications and taught “conscientiously”, but young graduates who worked as middle management in the public service earned twice as much.
Sadtu deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi said his union hoped pay grievances would be addressed by the commission.
“Teachers should be able to afford houses for themselves and their families,” said Dolopi.
“Teachers should be able to afford health care, education and transport.”
Sisulu also announced that she wanted to speed up misconduct cases. Suspended public servants would no longer be paid for months.
“It’s a huge cost to the state of remuneration to employees on precautionary suspension.”
These were among the problems she hoped would be dealt with once the anti-corruption bureau had been established, Sisulu said.
“The reality of a huge backlog of misconduct cases in the public service and the huge cost to the state in remunerating employees who are not at work creates a culture of impunity in the public service that it’s okay to go on as we are,” said Sisulu.
She said the turnaround time for cases would be much faster and there would be a “faster resolution of all our problems”.
Her deputy director-general, Khumbula Ndaba, said the department was aiming at a limit of 20 days for the investigation and conclusion of cases.
“One of the things that we’re doing is defining a period for the cases,” he said.
“We had a problem with investigations - that there was no specific period defined, so it could take very long just to investigate a case. And we’ve set ourselves 20 days.”
The department had also trained a pool of public servants in how to handle and investigate cases to arrive at a resolution more speedily, Ndaba said.