The Education Labour Relations Council gave the Committee a presentation on its three-year strategic plan for the financial years 2010 to 2013 and a one-year service delivery plan for the financial year 2010/11. It gave the Committee a brief overview of ELRC’s vision, mission, and goals. And focused on its core businesses and five programmes: Dispute Resolution Services; Collective Bargaining; Executive Services; Corporate Services and Capital Expenditure.
The Committee felt that not enough information was given in the presentation and asked that the ELRC provide extra reports with more detail about the expenditure of the budget and how the Council’s programmes worked. The Members also asked for clarity on the teachers’ strikes and what constituted a legal strike. They felt that a child had just as much right to an education as teachers had to strike.
The ELRC had three weeks to submit comprehensive reports on issues discussed in the budget and at the Committee meeting.
Education Labour Relations Council Presentation on the Budget
Mr Dhaya Govender, General Secretary, Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) said core business of the ELRC was Dispute Resolution Services and Collective Bargaining. Both were done at a national and provincial level except Collective Bargaining for Higher Education and Training, which was only done at a national level. In 2008 the ELRC expanded the scope of its constitution to include bargaining and dispute resolution for the Further Education and Training Colleges (FETC) sector. The new scope, as approved by the Registrar of Labour Relations, would include non-educators for both Basic and Higher Education in the future. The operational plans and budgets included Dispute Resolution Services and Collective Bargaining in basic Education and Higher Education and Training.
ELRC provided support services such as: Management, intervention and facilitation services; compliance and investigation services; governance support services; mobilising employees’ services; research and development; training and development; media and communication; finance and accounting services; and facilities management services.
The activities of the Council was organised into five programmes.
The first programme was Dispute Resolution Services, which included two sub-programmes. These were Training and Development and Dispute resolution Services. The strategic objective for training and development was to coordinate training of negotiators and dispute resolution practitioners with the relevant knowledge and skills to carry out their responsibilities effectively and efficiently. The Dispute Resolution Services strategic objective was to resolve grievances and disputes in education.
The second programme was Collective Bargaining Services. This was divided into four sub-programmes. These included Collective Bargaining-National, which conclude collective agreements in public education and to ensure compliance with LRA. The second was Collective Bargaining Services-Provincial, to conclude agreements specific to a province. Each province had its own operational objectives focusing on issues of importance in those specific areas. The third sub-programme was the Dispute Prevention Support Services. This provided support in the prevention and resolution of disputes. The fourth sub-programme was Governance Support Services. This offers tools and information to stakeholders to govern the Council effectively and efficiently.
The third programme, Executive Services was divided into five sub-programmes. These included: Management, intervention and facilitation services, which ensured the sound management of the Council and intervened and facilitated matters of national importance that threatened labour peace. Compliance and Investigation Services, which ensured the sound financial management of the Council and ensured that there was adherence to national laws and regulations, best practice and established policies and procedures. Mobilising Employees Services (HR), this was to ensure the effective mobilisation of employees to deliver the best services. Research and Development conduct market research and needs analysis for the education sector to improve access to and quality of education, and to engage in research to support the quality initiatives in public education. The final sub-programme was Media and Communication.
The fourth programme was Corporate Services; this was made up of two sub-programmes. These were Financial Services and Administration Services.
The fifth programme was Capital Expenses. Its strategic objective was to guarantee the procurement of resources and to manage property of the ELRC with particular focus on increased effectiveness, efficiency, economy, transparency and integrity.
From 1 July 2009 the scope of work carried out by the secretariat had changed. New programmes were added and old sub-programmes re-aligned. The income of the FETC sector was insufficient to meet its expenditure. Consequently the Basic Education sector of the ELRC had to subsidise the deficit in the Higher Education and Training budget. The budgeted income for 2009/10 was based on a levy of R10 which was the same as the previous year. At the end of the first quarter 30 June 2009 the reserve funds stood at R30, 489,335. These funds were insufficient to carry the Council up to the year 2011/12. It required an additional R19, 587,144 to carry out all its functions in the year 2011/12 and 2012/13. However, savings in previous years would enable the accumulation of funds, which could be used in 2011/12 and 2012/13.
Mr Moshakga gave a summary of the budget in his presentation starting from the 2007/08 financial year up to the 2012/13 financial year.
The allocation of budget to various programmes was: 22% for Dispute Prevention Support Services; 12% for Collective Bargaining (Provincial); 9% for Collective Bargaining (National); 2% for Training and Development Services; 13% for Dispute Resolution Services; 2% for Higher Education Deficit; 8% for Capital Expense; 11% for Finance, Accounting and Facilities Services; 5% for Media and Communication; 3% for Research Services; 5% for Mobilising Employees Services; 2% for Compliance and Investigation Services; 4% for Management, Intervention and Facilitation Services; and 2% for Governance Support Services. The presentation also gave a summary of the budget for each sub-programme.
Mr Govender added that there was no need for an increase in the levy; this would only need to be done in 2014/15. The only area of concern was the FETC sector which the Council would have to continue to subsidise, so cross subsidisation would be needed for an extended time and would continue for another two or three years. The budget was based on resources the Council had, the savings it made and how it intended to use those. With a change in the scope it had managed to cater for both the sectors. The Council was also the first public entity to volunteer with the Auditor General for a full performance audit because it was confident in its planning process.
Mr Theuns Tredoux, Chief Financial Officer: Department of Basic Education told the Committee that the presentation was based on what the Minister had approved and there was no problem with the budget admitted. The majority of increases were within dispute resolution and collective bargaining within the Higher Education and Training sector.
The Chairperson said that she felt a bit lost after looking at the summary of the budget. It showed income received and then transfer from reserve fund and then it switched to expenditures, but there was no analysis on what each increase was being spent on. For example when looking at the pie chart there was no indication of what was spent on human resources. There was also no percentage of the full pie. It had been broken down into programmes but there should be an HR office in each programme. So the Committee wanted to see, in a global perspective, how much the Council was spending on salaries and wages, how much was being spent on the core business and how much was being spent on other things such as stationary. Looking at the Mid-Term Expenditure Forecast (MTEF) going forward, it was difficult to have a strategic plan and difficult for the Committee to “marry” the two. There was a R90 million deficit but they were not sure what it was meant for. The Committee required an analysis that was broken down to give a global picture. It needed an intricate sense of the Council’s budget and asked that it provides such information in reports for the Committee.
Ms N Gina (ANC) said that she was concerned about the funds used for training negotiators. Every year the Council was training negotiators and she wanted to know if there was no way that it could retain those people so that there was no need to spend so much on training every year. She was also interested in the issue around the laptop scheme for teachers and when would the plan be rolled out.
Mr Govender said that the problem was that the level of turnover of negotiators at an ELRC’s national level was not high but in the trade unions it was. The unions had elections every three years so things changed every few years. He said of the 240 people who started the training, 120 from ELRC and 120 from the unions, only 90 completed the training. The Council was trying to develop its own capacity for training, and in order to so this they would need to hire a third party to do the training. In terms of the laptops Mr Govender said that the Council had done all its work and had been ready in January. It was liaising with the Auditor-Generals Office and it was hopeful that the accreditation for the stop order would be ready in the next six weeks, so it was close in terms of the programmes roll out.
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked Mr Govender if there was an improvement in Education due to the Council’s input since 1995. She also wanted to know if the social contract with the unions had been signed yet or if it was just an agreement to sign the contract, and what would be the role of the stakeholders.
Mr Govender said that the Council had made strides since 1994. When ELRC talks about the teaching and learning process and it looks at the drop in performance on matric results it is the areas that were getting specific attention. It still had not overcome the backlog in infrastructure. The Council was talking about what it had control over. It was part of a forum were performance measurements could be debated and agreed upon and in terms of that it could put in measures in place. He said he would give a detailed report of this to the Committee as requested by the Chairperson. The progress made by the ELRC was that it could locate the political context and where it should focus. The teachers’ unions had submitted, out of their own accord, a joint social contract and he had heard that they had a meeting with the Minister.
The Chairperson said that the Committee needed more information on how the training of negotiators worked. The Council had 25 delegates, and they wanted to know who these people were, how long they had been there and what they do. She also wanted to know what types of support structures were in place and how long do negotiators last. The Committee also needed reports on how many agreements had been forged, what were the issues and had they been implemented, since the start of the ELRC. The report should also show how many outstanding disputes there were. In terms of research the Committee wanted to know what type of research was being done. The Chairperson said there had been overlaps within institutions in Education and mandates had been increased without people discussing what needed to be done first. She wanted Mr Govender to give a detailed analysis of the legal framework in which ELRC worked in. Which law gave it certain mandates, she wanted to know where ELRC’s core mandates came from. In order to review overlaps this analysis needed to be done. The Department of Education needed to be streamlined in order to work efficiently and effectively.
Mr Govender said that the Council had spent the last two years doing quality control on teachers who had been dismissed and on teachers who had abused children. The abuse of children had been on the rise and ELRC had been going around to Provinces to try find solutions that would make sure that children’s rights were not violated further than what they had been already during dispute resolution procedures. Reference was made to Section 28(2) of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court had already had a discussion about the validity of Section 153 of the Criminal Procedures Act, which allowed for a child to be given certain protection and the Constitutional court had confirmed that it was constitutional to give special protection to a child. There was a lack of intermediaries to assisted children. The Council felt that schools should try to avoid internal disciplinary hearing, ELRC hearing and union’s hearing and rather have one hearing with an independent panel and specialists to chair the hearings. It was clear that cases were increasing and they needed to be dealt with.
The Chairperson reiterated what she said earlier and asked that all of the information be put in reports for the Committee.
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) pointed out that there were displaced teachers sitting at home who were still being paid because of grievances between them and the school. He wanted to know if this was because negotiations had failed. He also wanted to know if governing bodies of schools were also being trained in bargaining and negotiation. In the presentation it said that the “ELRC will become a true bargaining sector” he wanted to know what this meant. In terms of negotiating policy, Mr Mpontshane asked what would happen if the unions rejected classroom visits, would this be negotiated.
Mr Govender said that the displacement of teachers and principals was not an issue in all Provinces but it was a problem in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Some teachers were staying away from school because they were being threatened by the community or by the governing body of the school but then there were those who were pretending to be displaced so that they could stay at home but still get paid. This issue needed to be dealt with is a fast and efficient way and as soon as the problem arose. The ELRC could not go into a school to help resolve issues unless the Minister of Education in that Province requested it.
Mr Govender said that there had always been classroom visits. In areas where teachers were found wanting professional help was given. This is where peers and supervisors supplied support. These issues could be bargained on and negotiated if intervention was needed because a situation was so bad. This would also ensure that children got the best quality education.
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens pointed out that teacher development and professionalism was one of the Council’s operational objectives but she wanted to know why this was only focused on in two or three Provinces and not in all of them. She also wanted to know what curriculum development entailed and why was it only done in certain provinces, because the Department did curriculum development and the unions did it as well. Regarding the striking of teachers, there were currently teachers in Limpopo attending a meeting during school times. Yes teachers had a right to strike but she wanted to know what happened to the rights of children to have an education. Ms Kloppers-Lourens also wanted to make the Council aware that a fifth of the 27000 schools in South Africa were sitting without principles and she wanted know what the Council was doing about that seeing as it advertised open positions.
Mr Govender, in answering the question about teacher development, said that along with the Department of Education it had been working on post summit work. There were four task teams working on this and the dead line for finishing the work would be April 2010 so that proper recommendations could be made. On 5 March the DG and the teacher development advisory committee had a workshop to address progress made. A report would be produced and he would pass on the report to the. In some areas good progress was made and in others it was a bit slow. Part of the problem was that some of the work overlapped between the four task teams. Recommendations made would require the coordination of funding which could be a problem. The funding for teacher development was located in too many organisations within too many Departments.
Mr Govender said that the answer he gave Mr Mpontshane was linked to the filling of posts. Part of the problem the Council had was when a dispute was declared ordinarily the head did not make that appointment and while waiting for the ruling from the ELRC on the dispute hearing. Some of the hearings had taken four years. It was now engaging with the unions and the Department and they had set some new standards that ensured that the hearings were disposed of within 60 days of coming to the ELRC. This is what the ELRC was doing to ensure that children were not denied the right to an education.
Striking teachers had become an issue. Before any teacher could strike negotiations had to be done between themselves and the ELRC. If they could not come to an agreement then the teachers would be allowed to strike. Mr Govender said the Council had to deal with wildcat strikes that were illegal. The last formal strike that went through ELRC was in 1997.
The Chairperson asked Mr Govender to give the Members an idea of what were the legal consequences of wildcat strikes.
Mr Govender said that any person participating in illegal strikes could be fired. Before this was done though the Department would need to look at what caused the strike the matter should be investigated before decisions were made.
The Chairperson asked whether this should become a priority issue in the ELRC’s strategic plan, since these illegal strikes were happening often. This would ensure that disputes were dealt with effectively, since it seemed like members of unions were not aware of this process.
Mr Govender said he agreed that this should be a priority issue that needed to be focused on. The ELRC needed to go deeper into the situation and he said it was something it would undertake.
Mr N Kganyago (UDM) asked what would happen to those who were forced through intimidation to participate in the strike.
Mr Govender said that the ELRC would not tolerate intimidation and violence and anyone who participated in this way would be dealt with. Someone could have been forced to strike but they were not forced to act violently, the law had to be enforced.
The Chairperson asked that a report be submitted by ELRC on the issues of strikes as well in order to make the situation clearer for Members.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked whether problems would be solved if teaching were declared an essential service.
Mr Govender said that this would not help, and that wildcat strikes could not be prevented if they people were ready to take action and strike because they were upset by something.
The Chairperson asked that the ELRC have all reports ready for the Committee in three weeks and amendments to the Budget to be ready in one week.
The meeting was adjourned
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