Teacher strike looms

The threat of strike action by 1,3-million civil servants– including teachers — seems unavoidable after labour unions rejected the employer’s “revised offer” last week.

The state has called another meeting with labour but a source within one of the largest teacher unions indicated they would not attend. While the strike would affect delivery of services in health and safety and security, education would be hard hit as it is the grade 12 learners who will suffer the most as they have less than two months before their final examination.

Ezra Ramasehla, president of National Professional Teachers’ Organization of South Africa (Naptosa), told the Teacher all teacher unions were ready to down tools after they received mandates from their constituencies.

Ramasehla said after the state failed to improve its wage offer unions decided to serve notice to the state about their intention to strike during the second week of this month. By law, a notice for strike action should be lodged with the employer seven days before employees down tools.

At the heart of the dispute is labour’s demand for an 8,6% wage increase; a R1 000 housing subsidy; and the equalisation of subsidies for medical aid as opposed to the state’s 6,5% wage offer.

The parties held another meeting in the last week of July but still could not sign a deal after the state offered a R20 increase on the current R620 monthly housing subsidy and failed to budge on the wage increase and medical aid subsidy.

Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi said government could not afford to meet labour’s wage demands because this would push the salary bill way above what the state has budgeted for. The state has budgeted R11,2-billion for salary increases and R845-million in housing allowances.

If the employer accedes to labour’s demands, it is projected it would spend R17-billion on salary increases alone and R3,5-billion for housing allowances.

The feeling within civil servant workers is that there is no reason why the state cannot meet their demands as it set a precedent by offering a 10% wage increase to other unions such as the South Africa Transport and Allied Workers’ Union and Solidarity, which organise within the state-owned enterprises.

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Thabo Mohlala
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