The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), the largest union in the education and public service sector, is not impressed by the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) which was delivered on the backdrop of an economy that is forecast to grow at a disappointing 0,5% in 2019.
The MTBPS has left public servants further demoralised as the Minister, once again, fingered the public sector wage bill as one area government will focus on to reduce spending.
We are not impressed at all because the State Owned Enterprises which have had their wage bills ballooned over the last few years, are bailed out by more than R36bn. This amount would have been used to restore the dignity of those who work in learning institutions without toilets, water, appropriate classrooms, security personnel and education support personnel to be deployed to this needy area.
For the Minister to state that the average government wage bill has risen by 66% in the last ten years, seeks to suggest that public servants are overpaid. As a union in the education sector, teachers are overworked teaching overcrowded classrooms and by the look of things this situation will not be reversed as prospects of employing more teachers are non-existent. These teachers sleep in the schools over the weekends to do extra work. They work during holidays and afternoons and, in some cases, conduct evening classes on a daily basis. Over and above that, they still have to hear the news that they are not needed and their meagre salaries must be slashed.
Every week a learner is stabbed at schools because the police are under resourced whilst the money is bailing out underperforming SOEs.
Government needs to attract more young people into public service. The carrot of good salaries and better conditions of service are the only tools available to attract and retain good public servants. We need more police to combat crime and corruption. We need more nurses and doctors to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI).
We are yet to see a concrete plan to curb wasteful expenditure which runs into billions of rands that is announced year in and year out by the Auditor General.
We need a firm and bold action on tax evasions, which in the main, are caused by the same private companies who are on an investment strike.
We look forward to engage in robust discussions in the relevant bargaining structures to achieve a sustainable arrangement as the Minister indicated in his speech. We want to condemn the tendency of undermining collective bargaining forums by making big pronouncements such as the call for voluntary retirements without engaging workers in proper bargaining forums. There is nothing about us without us.
We were hoping the MTBPS would announce job creation measures as it has come at a time when earlier in the week, the Statistician General released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey which showed that unemployment increased by 0.1 of a percentage point from 29% to 29.1% from July to September.
It is further disappointing to note that Government is hell-bent on ensuring that e-tolls continue. As a member of the Federation, COSATU, SADTU has been calling for the scrapping of e-tolls and after so many years, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The NHI Bill has been dragging for too long. The Minister’s announcement that discussion between the Ministers of Finance and Health are on-going and that Parliament is considering the Bill does not instill much hope; the Bill has been on the table for far too long
We welcome the freezing of salaries and benefits of cabinet members, Premiers, MEC’s but we do not believe this will see much saving; the reduction of the number of cabinet ministers and their deputies, will make a difference.
We need to look at the role of provinces as a possible duplication and perhaps an expensive bottleneck and consider doing away with them. There should be a follow-up on identifying one city to host both parliament and the administration and cut on the waste of managing government between Cape Town and Pretoria.
We hope the Budget which is normally introduced in February will be more explicit on Government spending plans, where areas such as gender based violence and safety in schools will receive serious attention.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157