The MTBPS is a slap in the face to public servants including educators
The Medium Term Budget Policy Statement delivered by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has left SADTU, the largest union in the education and public service sector with no joy. It is a slap in the face to hard working educators and public servants.
The Statement has clearly shown the unpreparedness of the Treasury to honour the last leg of Collective Agreement 1 2018 which would have ensured salary increments for public sector employees including educators.
This is the worst form of provocation and an open attack on collective bargaining, of the Labour Relations Act and even spitting on the Freedom Charter which clearly states; "All who work shall be free to form unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers."
The Statement by the minister makes a mockery of the call to a build a capable, effective and efficient development state. There is no way in which you can achieve such a state with public servants who are hungry and can't afford even a meal, nor to feed their families. Such unhappy, overworked, demoralised workers will never be in a position deliver the quality service which the President of the country always speaks about.
Public servants, in fact, are going to be trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and vulnerable to loan sharks in order to make ends meet.
Public servants are being pushed into a group of those who work but remain poor and will, in fact, be paupers. Thanks to the Minister and the entire arrogant and unaccountable liberal treasury.
This budget will further discourage learners from pursuing education as a profession. This statement de-professionalise the profession and the entire public service. There is no incentive to study hard and to serve your country with pride.
We don't support the minister's call to forge a new consensus on public-sector employee compensation which is outside of the agreed upon bargaining structures. People lost their lives fighting for bargaining processes and structures to be put in place so that there could be labour peace. These processes and structures should be respected and protected to the letter.
For the Minister to raise the fact that compensation for public sector employees over the past five years grew by 7.2 % a year on overage, well above inflation gives one the impression that public sector employees therefore do not deserve increases.
Although the thrust of the Statement is focussed on the poor, teachers who are in the "missing middle" are equally vulnerable. They are regarded as too rich for their children to receive free tertiary education and yet they cannot afford. They are also regarded too rich to receive housing subsidies from government and yet they cannot afford to buy houses. The Statement is silent on the Government Employee Housing Scheme that we have been long been calling for.
With no increases in the horizon, teachers' plight will worsen and will retire more poor as they will have to rely on their retirement even before they retire because government will now present legislation next year to allow for limited pre-retirement withdrawals under certain circumstances. Teachers will be forced to rely on these to send their children to tertiary education and housing and to make ends meet. The future is bleak.
On the education front, we can see education is no longer regarded as an apex priority as it has been lumped together with culture to receive R1, 2 trillion. R600 million to employ early childhood development practitioners and social workers is not enough. Early childhood development is at the moment not formalised and yet it is an anchor for any quality education. Early Childhood educators currently do not receive all the benefits that teachers in the public service do receive.
Any recovery plan should be based on quality public education as an investment. Any cut on the budget on education works against the same recovery plan.
We do understand the country's debt situation but we cannot, to echo the Minister's words, "expect civil service to carry the burden of nation build alone." We cannot take this lying down when the cost of living continues to increase on a daily basis.