The SA Medical Association (SAMA), a trade union organisation in the public health sector, has noted with both dismay and concern the carefree refusal by the employer in the education sector to honour and implement collective agreements duly negotiated and agreed between educators and the Basic Education Department.

“As workers we have come a long way in the struggle for better working conditions and for a decent wage and as such, we are not about to lose the hard earned victories of our struggles now,” Dr Phophi Ramathuba, SAMA Committee for Public Sector Doctors chairperson, said when commenting on education sector developments.

The emerging tendencies by the employer to abandon the collective agreements being witnessed in the education sector, she added, was not only an onslaught on the hard earned right for workers to engage in collective bargaining, but also undermined the government’s broader position on education as one of its key priorities.

“It is obvious that the current leadership in the Basic Education is not taking us in the direction of achieving the goal of the millennium declaration on better education by 2015.

“If as public sector unions we do not defend the principle of collective bargaining,” Dr Ramathuba added, “we will find ourselves in situation wherein bargaining processes are compromised. But we are not immune to this,  the Free State and Gauteng provinces, for example, recently withdrawing our agreements on RWOPS (Remunerative Work Outside Public Service) without consulting us - and even worse Gauteng province equally changing the commuted overtime contracts signed with specialists to lower categories but expecting them to still put in the same amount of working hours.”

SAMA has therefore called on Basic Education and its counterparts in provincial health to respect and honour signed agreements. These authorities, the SAMA statement added, should also note that any deviation without consulting and obtaining agreement with affected parties “is causing instability within the two vital departments of education and health and impacts adversely on service delivery which punishes the poor and the working class”.