DURBAN - THE CONGRESS of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and teacher unions are planning a march to stop Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu from possibly retrenching 4 000 teachers in the province.
Cosatu provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize said on Sunday that the province would come to a standstill if the department goes ahead with its plans.
Mkhize said the union had warned the government that the austerity measures former finance minister Tito Mboweni had announced would lead to disaster, but it was never heeded.
The union said it was very concerned over Mshengu’s pronouncement about the looming retrenchment of 4 000 teachers as a result of budget cuts of R6.3 billion and said it would have catastrophic socio-economic consequences for the province, in particular the impoverished.
“This happens at a time when the country is facing an unprecedented high unemployment rate and we will fight it to the bitter end. We are consulting our members on the ground about action but indications are that we are going to take to the streets to prevent the department from laying off our members.”
There are already thousands of young teacher graduates sitting at home because the department was not filling vacant posts, he said. These graduates have opted for low paying jobs such as cashiers and some are employed as rubbish collectors in municipalities.
“The government made education its number one priority so we do not understand how you tamper with the budget of that priority. This is poor planning. We thought the government would cut budgets of other departments and bring that money to essential sectors like education and health.”
SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said her union did not understand why the department would say such a thing when there were more than 2 000 vacant teacher posts to be filled. She said the MEC has not responded to the memorandum Sadtu submitted last month with teachers demanding the vacant posts be filled.
Thousands of pupils were not being taught, she said, because the department was not filling the vacant posts. She did not know what would happen if, on top of the 2 000 vacant posts, the department would create another 4 000 by retrenching teachers.
National Teachers’ Union (Natu) secretary Cynthia Barnes said they would also fight retrenchments in the education sector. This would create inequalities already being felt by children in deep rural schools who are going to school for nothing as there are no teachers to teach, she said.
“The people cutting the education budgets do not have their children in these most affected areas. We know their kids are in private schools. Now they want to destroy the future of black children so that they would forever depend on the R350 government grant.”
National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA provincial chief executive Thirona Moodley said Naptosa did not believe retrenchment was inevitable and urged Mshengu to speak with Treasury to find the money to save jobs.
She said the retrenchment would add a further burden to overworked staff because of non-filling of vacant posts.
Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the MEC did not say there would be retrenchment but was warning that if the projections of a budget cut of R9 billion next year and R11 billion in 2023 became real, retrenchment of 4 000 teachers would be unavoidable.