‘Maseribane dares teachers’ union

‘Maseribane dares teachers’ union

MASERU – A nasty war of words has erupted between a minister and a spokesperson of teachers’ unions. The fall out which further illustrates the widening gulf between teachers and the government follows a threat by unions to resume their strike when schools open.

Teachers have been having intermittent strikes since last year over an array of grievances they say the government has failed to resolve despite several meetings and promises over the past year.

But now matters seem to have come to a head, with each party digging in its heels for what is likely to be a long-drawn brawl.

This week Communications Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, who leads a ministers’ subcommittee dealing with teachers’ grievances, aimed his ire at Letsatsi Ntsibolane, the spokesperson of the three unions.

In an exclusive interview with thepost, ‘Maseribane described Ntsibolane as an “embarrassment” for allegedly instigating teachers to strike when negotiations are still going on.

‘Maseribane was responding to Ntsibolane’s threat that teachers will resume their strike because the government has failed to deal to resolve their grievances.

“I am disappointed and embarrassed with Ntsibolane,” he said, adding that Ntsibolane “does not consider a hard work behind the scenes but just considers street noise”.

“If Ntsibolane decides to go on strike let him proceed. As for me, I am here working for Basotho,” ’Maseribane said.

He said Ntsibolane was playing to the gallery instead of finding an amicable solution to a problem.
The minister said he presented his committee’s report to the cabinet on Tuesday.

“On Thursday the committee will have another meeting to review its progress,” he said, adding that while Ntsibolane is threatening another round of strikes the government is already dealing with the teachers’ grievances.
This was confirmed by the Teachers Service Department (TSD)’s finance manager, Tseleng Putsoa, who said they are already paying substitute teachers whose outstanding salaries were part of the unions’ complaints.
On underpayments, one of the grievances, Putsoa said they agreed to recalculate the taxes.

She said they processed the ‘hardship allowances’ but other departments are yet to do their part to complete the transactions.

She said some of the delays were caused by glitches in the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), the government’s financial system.

Ntsibolane is however not hearing any of that, insisting that the strike is going ahead.

He said the government is not negotiating in good faith and is buying time to delay their strike.

Ntsibolane said when they suspended their strike earlier this year ‘Maseribane’s committee started “dragging its feet”.

“The ministers’ subcommittee dismally failed to deal with our grievances and not only those which need finances but even those which need political will,” Ntsibolane said.

He said Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa and the committee had enough time to deal with the issues but have “dismally failed”.
“We gave them enough time and they failed, now who will blame teachers for going on strike?”

Ntsibolane said the teachers will work only a week in a month until the government gives in to their demands. He however said their strike will not affect examinations.

He said parents should pile pressure on the government if they want teachers to get back to work.

“So education itself is at stake even though people will not realize the effect quickly,” he said, adding that when students start roaming the streets parents will see that this is a disaster.

He said although they have a list of more than 20 grievances they will focus on a few critical ones.

Top of the agenda, he said, is an eight percent salary review that he said is long overdue.

The teachers also want the government to allow them cash in on 50 percent of their salaries before they retire.  Currently, they are allowed to withdraw 25 percent of their pension.

They also want the ‘hardship allowances’ reviewed from M275 to M1500.
Ntsibolane said the government also reneged on its promise to pay teachers according to qualifications.

He said the government is also yet to reverse the decision to hire teachers without following procedure.

The Grade Seven textbooks that government promised to provide by April are yet to be delivered, he said. He said some of their grievances don’t require money but political will to resolve but the government keeps procrastinating.

Nkheli Liphoto

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