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Press statement by SAOU.

The SAOU noted with disappointment the criticisms expressed in a newspaper article in Rapport on 22 April 2018 under the heading “Teachers are getting more and more money”. In terms of responsible journalism it is incomprehensible that the opinion of the SAOU was not sought prior to the publication of the article. The Union is, after all, the party that is most directly interested in educator compensation.

According to the article, educators’ salaries have risen by 57% since 2010, while inflation has only risen by 38%. One of the criticisms is that the blame can be laid at the door of trade unions. However, this statistic does not tell the full truth and there are significant aspects that have not been addressed. In the opinion of the SAOU, it is important to highlight the following aspects:

  • Any profession, and that includes educators, are entitled to a professional compensation that reflects the value they add to the community. During the period under review, the education profession worked really hard, but certainly did not do enough to address this aspect. Educators’ compensation does not compare sufficiently with other professions in the public service. The SAOU will undoubtedly continue to strive to achieve this goal, namely that educators are placed on an equal footing with the other professions.
  • It is also a proven fact that the teaching profession succeeds in recruiting good candidates who are appointed as beginners in the profession; but it is also a proven fact that it is really difficult to retain the management cadre over the longer term. This is symptomatic of the really urgent need to give attention to the career path model for educators and especially the promotion opportunities.
  • It is generally accepted that the person in front of the classroom is the most important component in improving the quality of education. The knowledge levels of educators undoubtedly determine the extent of the learners’ knowledge. Good salaries ensure that education is able to attract and retain the best and most knowledgeable educators.
  • Another aspect that is generally not taken into account is the fact that the budget does not keep pace with the increase in learner numbers. Particularly two provinces are affected by this problem due to accelerated urbanization, namely, Gauteng and the Western Cape. The National Treasury will undoubtedly have to do much more to ensure that education budgets take this urbanization into account. The fact that the learner numbers increased by 670,000 cannot be laid at the door of the education profession. The increase in numbers also has to do with inadequate border controls and immigrants entering the system without proper measures being in place.
  • The statement is also made that educators’ salaries increased faster than other occupations. The SAOU finds this difficult to accept because the same general salary adjustments apply in terms of the agreements in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) to all professions in the public service. However, other professions are entitled to an annual salary progression of 1.5% average per annum while educators are only entitled to 1%.
  • The article also noted that the decline in funding is reflected in the weaker performance of learners as indicated by the TIMSS and PIRLS assessment. The SAOU agrees. There is certainly much to be said about the fact that the provincial departments of education are grievously neglecting their duty regarding quality in-service training. That’s why the SAOU is offering more than 200 training opportunities in all nine provinces for educators, this year.
  • Another fact to be taken into account is that the overall through flow rate of learners from grade 1 to a successful grade 12 has improved over the past few years. About 10 years ago the through flow rate was about 35% and this has increased to approximately 55%. This shows that especially education in the primary school sector has greatly improved.

The SAOU is especially concerned that the State as employer is lagging in the current salary negotiation process which has stalled during the last two weeks. To indicate at the end of six months that it does not have a mandate is both unacceptable and irresponsible. The employer’s approach is bound to be abused by the unions outside the PSCBC and there is every indication that there is an appetite to move to labour unrest.

The SAOU strongly appeals to the state to get its house in order, to return to the negotiating table with a proper mandate and to finalize the negotiation process.

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