Plans in place long before teachers' strike

In her article “Promises, promises”, Mandy Rossouw said: “Mbeki also promised teachers and medical professionals better salaries and new salary structures are in place for teachers, but only after a devastating strike. This year doctors, other medical professionals and social workers will be targeted, as well as public servants in the justice cluster and correctional services.”

The implication that the introduction of a new occupation-specific salary system was a result of industrial action is incorrect.

Attracting and retaining people of suitable qualifications and skills is an issue that has been the focus of public service policy development since our initial transition to democracy in 1994.

In 2006, the Department of Public Service and Administration conducted a personnel expenditure review (PER) to explore the reasons why the government was experiencing difficulty in attracting and retaining professionals in the public service.

Research suggested that issues such as lack of career-pathing opportunities, inadequate pay progression within salary scales and non-recognition of experience in the public service were some of the pertinent issues disabling the government from attracting and retaining skills.

The PER includes recommendations that the performance management system in the public service be strengthened and that the occupation specific dispensation (OSD) system be introduced.

OSDs are unique salary structures per occupation, which take into consideration labour market dynamics, in terms of appropriate/competitive remuneration. The aim of the OSD is to improve the government’s ability to attract and retain professionals in the public service.

The OSD for nurses has increased the starting salary of a professional nurse with a four-year qualification after completion of one year of community service from approximately R79 000 a year, excluding benefits to approximately R106 000 a year excluding benefits.

The salary of a nurse who has completed five years of service and is an excellent performer will increase by about 20%, which is over and above the annual general salary increase.

The starting salary of a teacher with M+4 qualifications will increase to about R115 000 per a year, excluding benefits. The proposal from government suggests that the maximum salary for a principal be increased to approximately R344 000 a year, excluding benefits. These will be differentiated by the size of the school, the complexity of the job and management needs.

Nurses and legally qualified employees were entitled to receive OSDs from July 1 2007, educators from January 1 2008, medical professionals and social workers from April 1 2008, correctional services employees from July 1 2008 and engineers and related professionals from July 1 2009.

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi is the Minister of Public Service and Administration

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

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