Community college lecturers march against hefty salary cuts
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Pretoria - Scores of disgruntled Community Education and Training staff from across the country marched to the Department of Higher Education and Training in Pretoria yesterday.
Lecturers at the colleges got pay cuts of over 45% and are demanding answers from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.
A memorandum of grievances accepted by the deputy director of the department, Thembisa Futshane, who was heckled by the crowd in the absence of Nzimande, said: “We, are extremely aggrieved and distressed about the manner in which the so-called ’standardisation process’ has been implemented
“Therefore, we are hereby formally submitting this memorandum of grievance and demands (as a collective) to the minister with the hope in his capacity as political head of the department and MP, he will hear of our desperate plight and find ways and means to mitigate the poverty wages that we are being subjected to as a consequence of this standardisation nightmare.
“We would like to conscientise the minister that when we were transferred from our respective provincial education departments and merged into the Department of Higher Education and Training in 2015, we were filled with tremendous hope that our abnormal and exploitative conditions of employment were about to be changed and improved.
“We thought they would be in line with the salary scales of other professionals who are doing the same, or similar work, within the same department; but our hopes are now dashed after the standardisation was implemented in a manner that is insensitive and inconsiderate to the economic circumstances that we are faced with.
“We have decided to leave our essential work today and travel long distances to come to our head office to remind you that the mandate of your department is fundamentally to develop a skilled and capable workforce that can contribute to an inclusive growth path for South Africa.
"We submit that central to achieving that mandate is ensuring that the colleges are well funded and well resourced to effectively address the skills needs for a wide spectrum and growing numbers of adults and young people in our country.
“It is, therefore, imperative for the minister and your top management to understand that the core of provision of Community Education and Training programmes is the lecturers, the same core which is undermined and taken for granted by the system.
“It is so perplexing to learn that the supporting staff (administration) is treated with more respect and dignity than the core staff (academic).
"We are here to declare that we all deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity without any discrimination whatsoever.
“Some of us have received a threat in the form of Human Resources Management Circular 40 of 2021; we are deeply concerned about the contents of that particular circular which seeks to intimidate us from exercising our constitutional and democratic right to gather, demonstrate, picket or strike within the parameters of the law.
“What makes matters worse is that the circular seems to be informed by unverified social media posts. We are here to declare that we shall never be threatened and/or intimidated by any person regardless of his/her position of power or social status to accept something that we are not intending to accept.
“We are aware that the issues of standardisation were discussed at the bargaining council, we are also aware that there was a formation of task teams and so forth. But you will excuse us for not trusting the same people who have negotiated our misery to be the same people who can solve it.
“In this sector workers are largely un-unionised and those unions which are privileged to sit in the bargaining council are actually representing a relatively small population of academic staff, hence you see us here aggrieved by the consequences of a certain settlement agreement which gave the employer the unilateral right to implement standardisation without the buy-in of the affected workers.
“We have always been concerned about our conditions of services from the very beginning and we have always being conscious about the kind of ’subhuman treatment’ we have been perpetually receiving from our democratic government despite the significant transitions that have already occurred, moving from Adult Basic Education and Training to Adult Education and Training to the current Community Education and Training, the treatment has been consistently the same.
“However, we are here to categorically state that this time the system has hit us where it hurts the most, and we view the implementation of this ’standardisation’ as a financial onslaught.”
Department spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi was unavailable for comment.