More than 20,000 social workers from different provinces united this past Monday to stage a march in the streets of Pretoria. The social workers, who marched for better working conditions and salaries, wore t-shirts with words inscribed in red that read ‘save our profession’ and ‘tired of being treated like an amateur’. The march was peaceful and included the singing of struggle songs such as ‘Senzeni Na’ and ‘Thupa’. The marchers successfully handed over a memorandum to Union Buildings and are now currently waiting for a response from Minister Bathabile Dlamini and the president.
The spokesperson for the South African Social Service Union and Provincial Executive for the National Association for Social workers, Andre Lewats, said social workers simply cannot cope work under tough conditions while earning a pittance.
“Some of the concerns coming from the social workers are their salary. Social workers and professionals are really worse off when it comes to their salaries,” said Lewats.
Lewats, who is also a member of the National Task team for the social workers March, stated that social workers in South Africa earn the same amount as people without a degree in administrative offices. Many social workers complained that their salaries that do not match their profession and qualifications.
He further mentioned that there are communities in South Africa where there are no social workers or other social work professionals at all because of the conditions in those areas.
“People do not want to work in conditions where the pay is low, where there is a lack of transport, where there are no offices and even when there is no office equipment. We appeal to the government to provide the necessary resources to address these issues,” said Lewats.
Lewats stated the National Minister provided feedback via the media after the memorandum was handed over but that the South African Union Social Service (SAUSS) does not want a response through the media, but rather direct engagement with the union.
“What is the encouraging is that Head of Departments in some of the provinces and MC’s have met with social workers, except for the Western Cape, where the HOD’s declined to speak with us,” said Lewats.
Unsafe conditions in poverty-stricken areas make it difficult for social workers to do their work because of the dangers in those areas.
“If you look at areas like Manenberg, Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain where there are high incidents of crime, social workers are still expected to get into those communities in the middle of the night. We have asked the Department of Social Development to at least provide support so that social workers operate in safer conditions,” said Lewats.
Lewats stated that it is mostly female social workers who are expected to go into dangerous areas at night, making the matter more of a concern. VOC (Imran Salie)