SAMA to study govt's proposed salary offer

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pretoria - Government's revised offer to striking doctors will first be considered by the South African Medical Association (Sama), which represents most public sector doctors, before being taken to its members.

The proposed new salary offer, being put forward by the Department of Health at the Public Service Bargaining Council, could see some doctors receiving a salary increment of up to 60 percent.

Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, made the announcement in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Government would like to implement the new packages, expected to cost around R1 billion, as of 1 July, if the offer is accepted by Sama.

Speaking to BuaNews on Thursday, negotiator for Sama, Phophi Ramathuba, said this decision had not been made by the association as its members have not yet received the official tabled offer.

"We will take the offer to our specialists who were assisting us with negotiations to study it and advise us on the interpretation. We will then take it back to our members, who will decide whether they accept or reject it," Ms Ramathuba said.

She said while there were areas of improvements in the revised offer, the association had picked up areas which would need further negotiation.

"Some categories were left out. The offer only talks of interns, specialists and chief specialists, but mentions nothing about other categories like chief medical officers, junior and senior specialists. These personnel are critical in the sector, and are free to leave to the private sector as they have done their internship and community service.

"We are still dealing with those areas," she said.

Minister Motsoaledi said the proposed offer would see unequal salary structures collapsed and interns receiving increases of between 31 percent and 53 percent.

The salary package for Medical Officers (Community Service), who are contracted for a year's service, will range from R330 226 and R357 524 to R392 599, which represents a increment of between 9.8 and 18.9 percent to address the inequalities.

Salaries for Principal and Chief Specialists, or Professors, have also been increased to 29 percent.

The package for a Principal Specialist has been moved from R769 271 to R962 174, which represents 25.1 percent increase, whilst the package for Chief Specialists increased from R932 399 to R1.2 million, which a represents 29 percent difference.

The minister noted that Principal and Chief Specialists have been very difficult to retain in the system due to their high levels of skill and the high demand locally and abroad.

The department has further restructured the salaries of Registrars, who are doctors who are studying for specialist degrees, to see an increase of 18.3 to 60.1 percent.

"One of the most problematic areas of the present salary structure is that those who decided to study further took a major drop in salary as they are regarded as students.

"In order to address this disincentive to study, we are increasing to arrive at a salary package of R528 770, from a low of R330 226 to a high R446 853," Dr Motsoaledi said, noting that there was a great need for Registrar skills in the department.

The minister further explained that the revised salary package would include a basic salary, 13th cheque, medical aid, pension, scarce allowance, commuted overtime and in some instances rural allowance.

"Each employee has the prerogative to structure their package according to their needs, this whole package has been lost in the public debate," he said.

However, doctors will not be back-paid from last July; the department is proposing a once-off payment as compensation due to the delays.

Minister Motsoaledi urged doctors to return to their work stations while negotiations continued.

"While we acknowledge the delay in presenting this proposal for reasons beyond our control, and no dispute has been declared, we expect every individual to return to their work station while negotiations continue," he said.