Education Labour Relations Council 2009/10 Annual Report

Basic Education

18 October 2010
Chairperson: Ms M Kubayi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) briefed the Committee on its 2009/10 Annual Report, noting its mandate to promote and maintain labour peace in public education. It was also actively involved in the progress of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign, and was a funder and participant in following up the work of the Teacher Development Summit, which had resulted in the Integrated Report. It undertook reviews of cases, and had dealt with 669 of these in the 2009/10 year, noting that the percentage of promotion disputes was decreasing, whereas cases of unfair dismissals were rising, indicating that the sector was taking more positive action against those infringing on agreements or engaging in misconduct. It was particularly important that cases of sexual misconduct should be dealt with, and in ten of the twelve matters referred, there had been finalisation through arbitration, confirming the Department’s action in dismissing the educators. However ELRC was concerned that in private schools, and for people employed by school governing bodies, as well as employees who were not educators, the Department was not able to act, and relied on the Governing Body to do so, which could place the pupils in jeopardy. It was suggested that perhaps there was a need for legislative review, but the Chairperson pointed out that a person who had been convicted of a sexual offence could immediately be dismissed. In addition the schools should be doing proper screening before employing anyone. The ELRC highlighted the training and development with practitioners, and panelists for the hearings. It was doing research on salary structures, and suggested the need for guidelines to standardise payment. Relationships with South African Teachers Union (SATU) and the Department had improved. It gave support to dispute prevention, and there were currently 94 stewards in the various teachers’ unions. The ELRC hoped to increase its involvement in the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign. The ELRC training initiatives had included the Teacher Laptop Initiative, although this had experienced significant delays in rollout. The HIV/AIDS Programme was aligned with the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, and had reached 22 335 educators in all nine provinces.

The ELRC reported that it had a clean audit report. There had been a large increase in revenue, but in the last two years the increases in expenditure exceeded those of revenue. The compensation accounted for 27% of the costs, with pay scale adjustments. Dispute resolution costs had risen by R4.2 million and training cost R11 000 per person, for 156 people. Shop stewards cost about 33% of the budget. Challenges were noted as reporting budget variances and performance information. Management of the budget, within the constraints of the limited secure funding that was available, was another challenge.

The Committee was concerned that the rise in compensation among senior management was a trend that would continue. Members noted their disappointment that the Teacher Laptop Initiative had taken so long to roll out, questioned the delays, and commented that the rising costs, particularly for connectivity, made this more of a liability than a benefit to teachers. They were also concerned whether the need to insure the computers had been taken into account. Members asked about the HIV/AIDS Programme, which was generally positive, but asked why there was lack of support from some provinces, and questioned what the figures for interventions meant. Members also were pleased that the Annual Report showed some improvements from the past years, but asked about the declining number of referrals for dispute resolution, questioning whether this indicated lack of confidence, and also said that the lack of information on backlogs was a weak point. The training programmes were not seen to be having as meaningful an impact as the Committee would have liked, and Members were also concerned about the possibility of duplication of training programmes.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Matric examinations would be beginning soon, and that the Committee would be receiving weekly briefings on progress in the Departmental offices.

Mr Mahalingum (Dhaya) Govender, General Secretary, Education
Labour Relations Council, briefed the Committee. He noted that the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC or the Council) had fulfilled its mandate to promote and maintain labour peace in public education. The Annual Report detailed its role in the way forward in the event of another strike. ELRC had been actively involved in the progress of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign, and was a funder and participant in following up the work of the Teacher Development Summit, which had resulted in the Integrated Report.

The ELRC had not been taken to court on any specific matter, other than reviews of cases. In terms of its performance he noted that the number of cases dealt with had increased from 575 to 669. The percentage of promotion disputes was decreasing, whereas cases of unfair dismissals were rising. This indicated that the sector was actively taking action against educators who had infringed on agreements or engaged in undesirable action.

He emphasised the importance of taking action in cases where there had been sexual misconduct. In the last financial year, the ELRC had received 12 disputes on this issue. Ten matters had been finalised through arbitration and had been decided in favour of the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department), meaning that the dismissals effected against the educators had been upheld.

Mr Govender spoke of misconduct relating to employees of the School Governing Bodies (SGB). He said that in these instances the State had no recourse, and that the Department of Education should be empowered to prosecute, and not have to leave it to the discretion of the SGB to do so, as it resulted in the child not always receiving the proper protection. He asked that the Committee apply its mind to a legislative review on the matter. The State should have the ability to take action against all people working with children in the schools environment. There was also a worry about the length of and number of hearings to which a child who was involved in a case was subjected. He advocated for a single hearing for matters involving child abuse. ELRC would be tabling the matter at its upcoming conference.

The Chairperson interjected to note that the Sexual Offence Act was very specific on this issue, and that in cases of a sexual offence, a person who had been successfully prosecuted could have his or her employment terminated immediately, without the need for any further disciplinary hearings. In addition, the schools should not be allowed to employ a teacher with a history of sexual misconduct, and the necessary screening of employees had to be done.

Mr Govender thanked the Chairperson for her input.

On the issue of training, he highlighted training and development with practitioners, who were the shop stewards for the unions and officials representing the Department, focused on hearings referring to the child.  In the arena of professional development, he noted that the training for panelists was specifically aimed at capacitating them in understanding the laws where teachers had sexually abused children. ELRC had identified panelists willing to chair such arbitrations, and was in the process of establishing a pool of intermediaries for these hearings.

The ELRC was in the process of doing research on salary structure, and noted that it understood the frustrations of teacher unions on the lack of sufficient remuneration. There was a problem with a system where teachers with tertiary level training were paid the same salary as individuals with only a matric level qualification. In relation to temporary teachers, he suggested national guidelines to standardise payment.  ELRC was also looking at performance management issues. Relationship building with South African Teachers Union (SATU) and the Department had improved. There had been some problems in the Eastern Cape province, but ELRC had intervened and a protocol agreement had now been signed. It had begun to mitigate against the disruptions in KwaZulu Natal (KZN).

ELRC had given support to dispute prevention. The shop steward project focused upon people being capacitated to represent stakeholders in disputes. Currently, there were 94 stewards in the various teachers’ unions, who functioned to resolve disputes, make input on HIV/AIDS prevention, and advise members. A submission was to be made to National Treasury for more funding for teacher development. In respect of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign, there was a desire to extend the ELRC’s involvement, ensure its rollout in every district, and involve more stakeholders.  ELRC had the commitment of the teachers and trade unions.

Mr Govender then discussed the Teacher Laptop Initiative, and admitted that there had been significant delays in its rollout. There were currently 12 consortiums involved, and Apple was soon to join, whilst there were still problems with Neotel. A National Treasury meeting had been scheduled, but had been delayed until 25 October. Launches had been done in Limpopo and Kwazulu Natal, and were to happen in Gauteng and the Western Cape on 26 and 30 October. The advantages of the initiative lay in the use of laptops as teaching tools, and the recognition of teachers through the subsidies provided for this benefit.

Dr Dorothy Naime, PCTA Executive Manager, ELRC, then gave a brief overview of the HIV/AIDS Programme. This had been aligned with the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, and had reached 22 335 educators in all nine provinces, with HIV prevention, care and support messages. The CDC-Pepfar funding cycle would end in 2011, and the programme would be seeking new funding to continue its work.

Mr Jeff Moshakga, Chief Financial Officer, ELRC, gave a report on the financial statements. ELRC had received a clean audit report. He noted the large increase in revenue over the last five years. However, in the last two financial years, expenditure had been growing faster than income. Compensation had accounted for 27% of costs in the last financial year (28% for senior staff and 57% for other staff). There had been pay scale adjustments in the past year. A 30% rise would have been regarded as excessive. Dispute resolution costs had risen by R4.2 million, a rise from the previous years. Training for 156 people had cost R11 000 per person, resulting in a total cost of R2.2 million. There was a challenge that people tended to leave for other positions once trained. Dispute Prevention support services had been addressed through shop stewards, which cost about 33% of the budget. Challenges were noted as reporting budget variances and performance information. The upcoming full audit would be more rigorous and provide more comprehensive feedback. Management of the budget, within the constraints of the limited secure funding that was available, was another challenge.

Mr Govender concluded by saying that provision had been made to minimise disruptions in the future. The Council would become more proactive about deploying facilitators to put ‘wild cats’ who caused disruptions through a disciplinary process, and provincial departments would need to participate in this process. A conference had been organised for February 2011, to address these issues.

The Chairperson noted two issues related to finances. A key cost driver had been compensation. She asked specifically about how many people were included in senior management, and for confirmation that a sixth post was still vacant (which, if filled, would have driven increases over 30%). She noted that the expenses related to senior management had grown by 16% per annum since 2007, and now amounted to 47%. She also asked about the accumulated leave, and the rise in costs associated with the CFO and accounting officer, asking what had caused these arrears.

Mr Moshakga said that senior management accounted for five people. The adjustment of the senior managements’ grading levels had only been communicated in 2009, but it had applied for the previous year as well, thus creating arrears. This had been addressed and this partly accounted for the increased expenses.

The Chairperson asked the representative from Auditor General South Africa (AGSA) to comment.

Ms Meisie Nkau, Business Executive, AGSA, noted that AGSA had accepted these explanations.

The Chairperson asked if the trends regarding senior management were set to continue, and what ELRC projected for the future. Although the Annual Report for 2009/10 was better than previous reports, particularly since it looked at performance ratings and targets, she was worried that the number of referrals had gone down. It core business was providing dispute resolution services, and the drop did not indicate confident in it. The report also contained no details of the backlogs, and there were no details of pending cases. It was important to include timelines and explanations as to where the problem cases were located, and what types of cases these were. She said that perhaps these details could be explained in a separate report.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) was requested to act as Chairperson from this point.

Ms Kubayi appreciated the clean audit. However, she said there was a need to address the issue of teacher training development. There was more than one entity requesting funding for this, and she asked who had the legal mandate to carry this forward, in order to eliminate duplication of responsibilities. The Committee was not seeing a huge impact in the training arena.

Mr Govender referred to the Integrated Report. There was a partnership between ELRC and training institutions, so ELRC was not the training provider, but would manage issues of accreditation, and would be fulfilling a monitoring function. He noted the need for teacher trade unions to drive training in the future. In terms of the Labour Relations Act, training was a matter of mutual interest.

Ms Kubayi asked whether all disputes were coming to the ELRC directly, or were being referred to the ELRC.

Ms Kubayi said that it was important to manage the conduct of members during strikes.

Mr W James (DA) said that issues around Information Communication Technology (ICT) and its use among teachers related to mastery of the technology, and not the technology itself. Use of ICT was clearly biased towards urban areas. He was disappointed at how long the Teacher Laptop Initiative had taken to roll out.

Mr Govender reported that in respect of the Teacher Laptop Initiative, there would be enough money available for the first phase of training (probably R44 million over five years).

Mr James said that problems in the Eastern Cape (EC) required attention. He had recently visited it, and found the comments about the situation misleading. Trade unions were covering for teacher absenteeism, and if the situation had indeed been stabilised, then this was not done so in a manner that was in the interests of the students. Money provided for infrastructure development was believed to have been spent on salaries.

Mr Govender said that in the Eastern Cape, the problem in Zone 6 was not just with SATU, but also other trade unions. He said that the SATU members were acting in a ‘wild cat’ manner, and the unions needed to take responsibility for managing this. The ELRC had also begun to ensure that actions were taken against teachers when they were not at school.

Mr James noted a pressing need for a bold plan focused upon teacher development. He thought that the comments by ELRC today were weak. He asked why the ELRC existed. Its mandate was supposed to lie in dispute resolution, and it should have handled the major and protracted teacher strike that had occurred that year, yet there appeared to be a design flaw in the ELRC’s mechanism.

Mr Govender said that the ELRC existed to provide dispute prevention and resolution services. The parties that constituted ELRC established the rules, which were then fleshed out in increased collaboration. The organisation also facilitated collaboration between trade unions and the Department, which had not happened prior to the ELRC’s interventions. There had been progress. Trade unions had accepted that teachers must teach. It had not always been possible, from a time point of view, to deploy panelists to the area in question. The ELRC had undergone a paradigm shift, and now recognised the prevention of disputes as being equally as important as resolution. However, one complicating factor was its inability to interfere in negotiations in the Public Services Board meetings with the bargaining councils. When there were strikes about wages, the parties did not approach ELRC. There had been no formal strike in the ELRC since 1997.
Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) asked why the governance structure, particularly the Chairperson of the Council, was not at the meeting.

Mr Govender was not sure why executive management (especially the Chairperson) had not attended, and would enquire about this.

Mr Dikobo asked why the nothing was indicated for three of the nine provinces, in respect of sexual misconduct, in the report.

Mr Dikobo said that there was a need for national guidelines on temporary teaching positions, as there was currently no compensation parity, and that perhaps ELRC should take responsibility for that process. There was a need to standardise conditions of employment.

Mr Dikobo commended the HIV/AIDS awareness programme, PCTA, for doing a good job. He asked for clarity on who was included in the numbers provided for those ‘reached’.

Dr Naime responded that the number of 22 335 had been based on narrowly defined targets. These were interventions in which at least 20 minutes had spent been with the teachers (in a small group). They did not reflect the numbers of large-scale meetings.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) enquired how duplication was prevented, as various stakeholders enriched the Quality Learning and Teacher Development Programmes.

Mr Makhubele asked, in respect of the Provincial Collective Bargaining Forum, if agreements could be signed with many provinces at once. He also asked if the provinces possessed the capacity to deal with the problems that they should be handling. He further enquired whether the provinces accounted separately with regard to financial reporting.  Regarding hearings, was it possible to conclude in one day?

Mr Govender said that it was important that, at a provincial level, trade unions and the department took responsibility for the success of the programmes. The establishment of provincial and district level structures was key to the process. ELRC was focused on bringing the Department and the trade unions together, and to roll this collaboration out nationally, and across all levels.

The ELRC was not satisfied with the provinces’ performance, and had conducted meetings with all of its leaders. Standardised requirements for each had been set. Each province had minimum requirements to which it must adhere, in terms of agreements reached. Where the provinces were dysfunctional, the General Secretary had now been empowered to intervene.

Mr Makubele asked why SATU was not participating more in the PCTA.

Mr Makhubele asked about unfair dismissals and whether the disputes had been justified. He wondered if the hearings could be concluded within a single day.

Mr Govender noted that when undertaking dispute resolution, the ELRC made decisions on the balance of probability. Most cases probably had no need to go as far as a hearing. This process was supposed to be a short one that did not take years. A Court would later address cases where there might have been reasonable doubt. The new performance measures sought to address this. He stated that trade unions were notified of Parliamentary briefings, and had the option to attend.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) stated that she was grateful that the ELRC existed, and commended it on its comprehensive report.

Ms Mushwana noted that HIV/AIDS must have a huge effect on employees, and this was definitely a labour relations issue. It was also important to deal with conduct. She emphasised that it was crucial that the Department continued to provide training, as the education sector was dynamic, and it was important to remain relevant. However, she did not understand why the programme’s goals on matric were not achieved, and asked how ELRC would deal with this.

Ms N Gina (ANC) asked how ELRC had ensured that it reached people on all levels across the country on the HIV/AIDS Programme.

Ms Gina asked about the training of panelists, the turnover, and how ELRC could retain people in these positions.

Mr Govender noted that in respect of the training of panelists, ELRC was looking for people wanting to specialise in child law, thus it was looking for expert knowledge. ELRC was working with the Centre for Child Law and the University of Pretoria to build capacity, as well as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Turnover was not currently a huge problem.

Ms Gina noted that the Bargaining Council also had people who were not directly employed and wondered if the same problems would apply here as they did at the School Governing Bodies.

Ms Gina was pleased with the Teacher Laptop Initiative, but had some concerns. She wondered what the delay had been. She was also concerned about the amount that teachers would have to pay in on top of the subsidies provided, which was a large amount.

Mr Govender conceded that the delays in the Teachers Laptop Initiative were unreasonable. The rollout was supposed to be in July, but delays were due to bureaucratic and administrative issues. Stop orders and benefits had to be resolved with National Treasury, so that the Initiative could come into full effect. Connectivity had been a significant driver of costs. ELRC was working with the Department of Communications to halve the price of connectivity, which would improve the situation. Government had been prioritising rural connectivity, and this Initiative might help in the rural prioritisation.

Ms Kubayi said that if the costs were so high, then the laptop ceased to be a benefit.

Ms Kubayi noted that certain structures were not in place properly, for the Kwazulu Natal component was not functioning. In addition, in Mpumalanga, the Bushbuckridge area was in disarray. This made her question other statistics stated in the report. She wondered what was being done to correct this.

Mr Govender said that, in Bushbuckridge, progress had been made in that the ELRC now had the capacity to monitor and intervene, and there could now be more immediate intervention. Similarly, the situation in KZN was being worked upon.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) asked if insurance cover had been considered for the Teacher Laptop Initiative, whether teachers had to take out their own insurance, and if there was likely to be a problem.

Mr Govender responded that the laptops had a five year guarantee, and the laptops would have to be insured for the same period of time.

Ms Gina asked how ELRC was managing to function properly without administrative services in place.

Mr Govender said that its administrative functions were undergoing improvement.

The meeting was adjourned.

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