Teacher unions accuse dept of unilaterally withdrawing incentives policy

Last Friday, the department gazetted its decision to withdraw the policy, which incentivises rural specialist teachers with 10% of their basic salary when entering the profession with a four-year qualification.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga hosted the top achievers at a breakfast session at the Houghton Hotel on 20 January 2021. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey Makhaza/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Teachers’ unions have accused the Department of Basic Education of unilaterally withdrawing a policy aimed at attracting highly qualified educators to rural areas across the country.

Although the department insists that the matter was thoroughly ventilated at the Education Labour Relations Council, the sector’s collective bargaining forum, unions said that this was not the case.

On Friday, Minister Angie Motshekga gazetted the withdrawal of teacher incentives in the policy on improvement of conditions of service for educators employed in terms of the Employment of Educators Act of 1998. The policy incentivises rural specialist teachers with 10% of their basic salary when entering the profession with a four-year qualification.

READ MORE: Dept of Basic Education explains why it withdrew its teacher incentives policy

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), the National Teachers Union (Natu) and the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) are all in agreement that there was never an agreement that the policy ought to be withdrawn.

While Sadtu said that unions rejected the move when the proposal was first presented in the ELRC, the other unions said that there was no consultation.

Naptosa’s Basil Manuel told Eyewitness News that while they sympathised with the financial pressures faced by the government, which was one of the reasons that the policy was withdrawn, the decision was unjustified.

"We believe more consultation on this matter should have happened so that we can iron out the problems that existed with implementation. But the summary cancellation of it does not speak to ensuring that the right people are in our country’s schools," Manuel said.

Meanwhile, Natu said that while it understood the financial constraints the government faced, prudent spending would have led to the continuation of the policy.

PLANS TO OPPOSE WITHDRAWAL

The unions said that they planned to oppose the withdrawal of the policy, citing concerns that the move will affect morale and in turn teaching.

Naptosa's Manuel said that while it acknowledged that there were challenges with the implementation of the policy, this was not reason enough to withdraw it.

He said that they planned to oppose the withdrawal.

"We can put it back on the agenda, whether we will succeed is another thing because in the ELRC its 50 plus one in labour and 50 plus one by the employer to make an agreement valid, so you need both sides but we can give them stick about not consulting properly and that is what we will do," Manuel said.

Natu’s GD Mboweni: "It will affect them [teachers] negatively. When they were getting those incentives, there were many reasons that were given, some are coming from very far. Besides the issue of costs, there is encouraging them. If you are not encouraged by those incentives and being in those places where they are not happy, it will also affect their performance."

The department said that there was no issue in the sector over the withdrawal, adding that those who were opposed to it, like the unions, don’t want to look like they aren’t representing their members even when they were part of the decision.