Magope Maphila (foreground), deputy president of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union attends their national general council at a Kempton Park hotel in eastern Johannesburg on Friday, 25 October 2013. The decision to suspend Sadtu president Thobile Ntola was not made lightly, Maphila said on Friday. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg - The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) has asked Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to fire all teachers who are threatening to go on strike over low salaries.

The call by the ANC-aligned students’ body came after the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) this week publicly announced its intention to lobby its members throughout the country to down tools until the Ministry of Education increases the teachers’ pay progression from 1 percent to 1.5 percent – equal to that of other public servants.

According to Sadtu, the Department of Basic Education had been reneging on this for the past four years, saying its failure had led to the mass exodus of teachers from the profession due to lack of incentives.

But Cosas secretary-general Tshiamo Tsotetsi said Cosas was calling upon Motshekga “to immediately fire anybody who intends on neglecting learners and marching for nonsense”.

Tsotetsi claimed Sadtu was using the pay progression issue as a smokescreen, alleging that its primary motive for urging teachers to down tools was due to the fact that they “lost a disciplinary case against director-general of basic education Bobby Soobrayan”.

Soobrayan was reinstated after Sadtu alleged last year that he was responsible for the lack of delivery of textbooks in Limpopo. He was also accused of undermining Sadtu, but an independent inquiry, chaired by Joburg Judge Willem van der Merwe, found him innocent on all the charges.

Reacting to the strike threat, Tsotetsi said: “Cosas is hereby expressing its dismay and disgust at the sudden threat by the teachers’ union to strike in opposition of the outcome of the disciplinary case.

“In a press statement released by Sadtu on February 18, 2014, the union forwards genuine matters of the workers in as far as the question of the pay progression for the teachers is concerned.

“We hereby, as Cosas, reiterate our bias to the struggle of the working class and support the call to the department to urgently address this matter.

“But what we will never tolerate is the intention by the teachers’ union to push for the teachers to stay out of class and neglect their responsibilities of educating the learners of this country,” Tsotetsi said.

Cosas maintained its assertion that Soobrayan was the reasons for the strike, and nothing else. It also lambasted Sadtu, claiming they were bad losers. Tsotetsi said Sadtu had full representation at Soobrayan’s hearing, including the services of their own lawyers.

“We maintain that at no point will we allow the learners to be compromised for narrow and selfish interests by the union leadership, and hereby assert that anybody who neglects their teaching responsibilities and marches will be regarded as reckless and inconsiderate.”

Sadtu is expected to make its decision on the strike action after its national executive committee meeting this weekend.

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