Teacher union to join Cosatu strike over ‘uncaring employer’

On the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, they have been hailed for their bravery during the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring that the academic year is saved, but the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has accused the state of being an “uncaring employer” for failing to pay salary increases due two years ago.  

“[The employer is] showing no respect nor appreciation to hard-working teachers even during such difficult times of pain and anxiety caused by the pandemic. It is a slap in the face that has left many teachers demoralised,” Sadtu said in a statement on Monday.

The union said as a result of this it supports the planned strike by Cosatu on Wednesday, which, among other things, is against corruption, unemployment, gender-based violence and the erosion of collective bargaining. 

“The undermining of collective bargaining weakens workplace democracy and dialogue. When dialogue is destroyed the results will be the promotion of anarchy and vigilantism. The promotion of collective bargaining ensures labour peace in the workplaces. The right to bargain collectively, as enshrined in our democratic legislation, is being threatened by apartheid-era styles applied by the employer in a democratic state. This must be rejected,” reads the Sadtu statement. 

World Teachers’ Day is celebrated on 5 October. This year the department of basic education celebrated the day in Mamelodi near Pretoria under the theme Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future. 

Speaking at a celebration on Monday morning Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga thanked teachers for having “worked tirelessly during the most uncertain period in our history”. 

“Sadly, some teachers have succumbed to the [corona]virus and other ailments. We send our deepest condolences to the bereaved families. Your loss cuts deep into our souls. Be comforted that your loved ones have run the race. Ours is to pick up the spear and soldier on. The dearly departed will continue to live among us in our hearts.”

Motshekga said teachers are the heartbeat of the basic education department and that the country needs to do more to show appreciation of them. “Our teachers deserve extra support through both monetary and nonmonetary measures for their tenacity, expertise and staying power.”
Sadtu said the pandemic had exposed the “appalling conditions teachers work under”, which include overcrowded classrooms and inadequate infrastructure such as toilets. “This again showed that teachers have long been leading in a crisis and this makes it hard for them, as they are expected to do so as teachers, to reimagine the future.”

MECs of education also thanked teachers for leading from the front during the times of Covid.
Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi said although Covid-19 posed a serious challenge, teachers stood their ground and ensured the academic year was saved. “We want to congratulate and thank all the educators that were on the forefront of ensuring that they provide support to our learners … Most importantly they were in the position to provide them with education.” 

Kwazi Mshengu, the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education, also thanked the teachers of that province for having worked well with the department to save the academic year. He said his department committed itself in working hard to improve teachers’ working conditions to ensure a successful teaching and learning project.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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