Education Labour Relations Council on its 2010/2011 Annual Report

Basic Education

12 October 2011
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Education Labour Relations Council reported that overall the number of disputes in public education was dropping. In 2010/11, there were 531 and the goal was to reduce this to 400. The highest number of disputes were about promotions. Details about child abuse disputes were discussed. ELRC presented an ageing analysis of all its cases and its targets for finalising cases via conciliation and arbitration. ELRC spoke of its facilitation role to prevent disputes and its work in training dispute resolution practitioners. A report was given on its national and provincial collective bargaining services and the role and representation of shop stewards by province. ELRC had commissioned research in 2010 to investigate the current salary structure in public education. Its major finding was the current system was appropriate with nothing fundamentally wrong. Details were provided about the progress with its Prevention, Care and Treatment Access Project and the Teacher Laptop Initiative. In its financial report, the point was made that the Council would need to consider cutting staff size and reducing operational costs, given its current level of income. Financial challenges included ELRC’s verification of basic education levies, implementation of generally recognised accounting practice, a new reporting framework on performance information, and fixing an audit opinion on performance information.
 
Members asked what proportion of funds was spent on teacher professional development. ELRC’s core vision was quality teaching and learning through labour peace, however this message had not been translated throughout the education sector. Concerns were raised about ELRC’s decrease in financial income and resources and proposed cutbacks in its staff as job creation was an important issue in South Africa. The suggestion was made about whether it should continue to have ten ELRC offices or just one centre to where all its resources could go. The comment was made that the initiative for the improvement of teacher skills should go beyond just having a laptop. A question was raised about the service providers for the Teacher Laptop Initiative and what ELRC planned to do to correct its audit finding on ‘fruitless and wasteful expenditure’. The Committee was grateful for the comprehensiveness of ELRC’s report.

Meeting report

Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) Annual Report
Introduction and Compliance Report
Mr Dhaya Govender commented that education would be a critical issue for the next five years and he would like to see a thriving relationship between education and government.
 
Mr Govender stated that ELRC was an organisation in transition to a public entity that would be responsive to the needs of public education. The new vision of the organisation was to improve the quality of teaching and learning through labour peace. The primary purpose of ELRC was to promote the maintenance of labour peace in the public education sector through the provision of dispute resolution services. The grievances and disputes of educators and officials were resolved through conciliation and/or arbitration. It also promoted the maintenance of labour peace through the provision of negotiations between trade unions and
the Department of Education. Mr Govender outlined ELRC’s organisation values: professionalism, transparency, independence, fairness and equality, social responsibility, and efficiency.

He noted ELRC had commissioned a major research project about the current salary structure for teachers in public education and had proposed a revised salary structure.

Mr Govender stated that education was improved through the dialogue of collective bargaining and through partnerships with other organisations. During the period under review, the total number of litigation
reviews and appeals decreased from 18 to three. He attributed the decrease to the quality control exercised by the ELRC.

Performance Report
Mr Govender stated that overall the number of public disputes that occur in public education were dropping. In 2010/11, there were 531 disputes. The goal was to reduce the number of disputes to around 400. The highest number of disputes stemmed from problems concerning promotions. In 2010/11, 44% of disputes came from problems related to promotion. When analysing the referrals of disputes by province, the Western Cape had the highest rate for disputes. In 2010/11, the Western Cape had 123 disputes, compared with 117 disputes in 2009/10.

Mr Govender presented an ageing analysis of cases for the 2005-2006 and 2011-2012 years. A total of 9 out of 19 part-heard arbitration hearings were finalised during the first quarter of 2011/12. ELRC currently had six cases still continuing and these would be finalised in the third quarter of 2011/12. Two cases from 2006/07 were finalised during the second quarter of 2011/12. These cases were referred to the Council by the Labour Court as de novo hearings, one was settled and an award was rendered for the second case.

Mr Govender noted that the target for conciliation of cases was thirty days. However, the Council did not achieve its 30-day target during 2010/11, mainly due to panelist capacity and Department of Education (DoE) and unions capacity. The target for arbitrations was 180 days. The Council had not been able to meet this target due to the parties being represented by lawyers who were not readily available for dates, who called a long list of witnesses and only agreed on dates that were beyond the stipulated target date. ELRC was engaging parties about arbitration dates that had been set beyond two months to bring them earlier and only approve subpoenas that were valid, so as to shorten the witness list.

Mr Govender transitioned to discussing the status of cases involving learners. Nine percent of the 157 dismissal disputes referred to the ELRC were related to the abuse of learners. Of the fourteen cases referred to the Council in 2010/11, nine cases were finalised and five cases had continued into 2011/12. A total of six new cases had been referred to the Council in 2011/12. The Council currently had a total of twelve cases related to sexual harassment. There would be workshops in the future that would address abuse of learners.

Mr Govender referred to the facilitation role of ELRC, saying it was committed to a number of initiatives aimed at averting disputes before they occurred. ELRC had assisted the Eastern Cape Department of Education, together with organised labour, to place all its displaced educators either at their original schools or alternative schools. Of their facilitation cases, there were currently 94 resolved cases, 40 unresolved cases, 8 cases pending, and 1 awaiting the outcome of appeal. ELRC was also involved in efforts to facilitate discussions between DoE and the South African ABET Educators Union (SAAEU).

Professional Development and Training
Mr Govender stated that the Council was committed to numerous training and development initiatives such as the training of dispute resolution practitioners, both from the unions and the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Mr Govender turned the presentation over to a colleague to discuss collective bargaining.

Collective Bargaining Services
Ms Cindy Foca, ELRC Senior Manager: Collective Bargaining Services, looked at both national and provincial collective bargaining services. She referred to the Teacher Development Summit, which had resulted in the Collective Agreement No 2 of 2010, or the “Implementation of paragraph 3.2 of the Teacher Development Summit Declaration of July 2009”. This agreement allowed for the processes of de-linking teacher appraisal for purposes of development from appraisal for remuneration and salary progression purposes.

Ms Foca stated that the ELRC commissioned research in 2010 on the appropriateness of the current salary structure in public education, and the development of a proposed model for possible implementation.

Ms Foca noted the significant achievement of the FETC Collective Agreement No 1 of 2010 which sought to bring about uniformity and equality between the salaries of lecturing staff and office-based lecturers in the Further Education and Training Colleges, with salaries of educators in Public Basic Education.

Dispute Prevention Support Services
Mr Govender provided a table showing the representation of shop stewards by province. They facilitated negotiations, consultations, dispute resolution and dispute prevention. They represented educators in disciplinary and con-arb hearings, represented unions in negotiations and consultations, were involved in the HIV/AIDs intervention programmes, and assisted and communicated with educators about education, employment and trade union related matters and assisted in monitoring the employer’s compliance with provisions of collective agreements and workplace-related laws.

Executive Services
Mr Govender stated that ELRC had commissioned research in 2010 to investigate the appropriateness of the current salary structure in public education and recommend a proposed model for possible implementation.

Ms Foca noted that the major finding of the research was that the different salary ranges agreed in 2008 which constituted the current system, were appropriate. The salary levels were broadly fair and reasonable. At the lower end they were adequate to attract new entrants and at the higher end they were generous to provide an incentive for experienced teachers to remain in the schooling system. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the current salary system.

Annual Financial Statements
Mr Jeff Moshakga,
Chief Financial Officer, stated that the only way to increase ELRC income was to increase levies. In 2010, levy income was R49,119,433 compared to R49,421,985 in 2011. This was an increase of less than 0.6%. Mr Moshakga presented a funding of operations overview for key personnel remuneration which revealed figures of R3 490 030 in 2011. Revenue and expenditure had both increased between 2007 and 2011. Expenditure had also increased. In 2007, ELRC had a deficit of R7 310, but for the 2011 year it had a surplus of R3 561.

Mr Moshakga commented on ELRC’s future challenges including verification of basic education levies, management of surplus funds, implementation of generally recognised accounting practice, a new reporting framework on performance information, and fixing an audit opinion on performance information.

Mr Govender stated that in the future the Council would need to consider cutting staff size and reducing operational costs. Given the current level of income, he recognised that ELCR would not be able to sustain its current staff.

Prevention, Care and Treatment Access Project
Mr Brian Shezi, ELRC Executive Manager: Prevention, Care, Treatment, discussed ELRC’s HIV/AIDS Intervention Programme. The Prevention, Care and Treatment Access (PCTA) Project targets and outputs were provided and the highlights as well as expenditure for the 2009/10 financial year and plans for 2011/12. 
Mr Shezi stated that ELRC would look to funding from the Futures Group SA/USAID. ELRC intended to pilot a comprehensive, evidence and schools based HIV prevention model in schools in the UMgungundlovu District Municipality, targeting educators, school support staff, learners and parents as primary beneficiaries. This pilot project would identify the best intervention model that DBE can use to operationalise the Draft Integrated Strategy on HIV and AIDS2012-2016, which calls for sexual and reproductive health
education – including HIV – to be a mandatory, timetabled and assessed subject delivered in all South African schools. The main objective of this pilot project is to mainstream and strengthen a systemic response to HIV/AIDS and to implement interventions beyond the Life Skills Programme of the DBE to respond more comprehensively to the HIV epidemic.

Teacher Laptop Initiative
Mr Govender stated that aside from the Eastern Cape, all other provinces had made provisions to receive letters to initiate the process of receiving laptops. The DBE and National Treasury were busy working to find an appropriate solution as it had to review the funding model for the laptops as a significant number of educators were unable to qualify for finance in terms of the National Credit Act. Banks and finance houses were reluctant to fund these and other teachers if there were no stat e guarantees. The Minister of DBE made a determination for qualifying school-based educators to be eligible for assistance. Qualified educators would receive a monthly allowance of R130,00 (taxable) and were required to fund the difference between the allowance and the monthly repayment of the package. Mr Govender described the need to progress with the Teacher Laptop Initiative and also presented information about the provincial progress report on the Initiative.

The presentation document also covered teacher development and the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked ELRC for the comprehensive report.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) expressed his concern about the specific financial details surrounding the Teacher Laptop Initiative and wanted greater detail and clarification.

Mr W James (DA) asked what proportion of funds was spent on teacher professional development, which he noted as a key area to invest funds in.

Mr D Smiles (DA) acknowledged areas of success in the report. He noted the decrease in disputes and the Teacher Laptop Initiative. However, all of these projects had yet to bear fruit. ELRC needed to focus on what would happen after the initiatives proposed were developed. The implementation of the projects would be most important. ELRC’s core vision was quality teaching and learning through labour peace, however this message had not been translated throughout the education sector. What had been done to achieve the realisation of labour peace in the education sector?

Mr C Moni (ANC) welcomed the report and most of the questions he had before the meeting had been answered. He noted the success rof the HIV/AIDS initiative. He did have concerns with the report’s explanation of the decrease in financial income and broad resources, which he viewed as a major problem. He questioned whether there should continue to be ten ELRC offices or just one centre to where all its resources could go. Some of the provinces were not doing as well as others, and more resources should be for the under-performing provinces. Should there be as many provincial offices as there were currently? The initiative for the improvement of teacher skills should go beyond just having a laptop. He referenced the Ageing Analysis report and wanted more general information.

Ms N Gina (ANC) wanted expansion about the core mandates, citing specifically mandates related to teacher development. She expressed concern about the cutbacks in staff that Mr Govender had talked about previously. Job creation was an important issue within South Africa, how did cutting staff factor into that issue? She cited the Teacher Laptops Initiative and its problem with service providers. There needed to be more details about when and how this issue was going to be unblocked.

The Chairperson congratulated the ELRC on the report. The Chairperson asked the Council what was being done about fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Mr Govender noted Mr Smile’s fundamental question about the understanding and implementation of labour peace. Education needed to deliver fair value. South African education had fallen very far behind, even compared to surrounding neighbours. f we pay teachers or provide incentives, the quality of teaching would improve. He stressed the need to focus on involvement in trade unions and the need to be involved in professional development areas. He welcomed the discussion about consolidating offices proposed by Mr Moni. Mr Govender also spoke of the need for an increase in services that were already present. 

Mr Govender noted the role of the press in the Teacher Laptop Initiative stating that there had been much mischief making.

He also addressed the issue of irregular expenditure stating that thus far, no steps had been taken to address the issue. This was an issue that would need to be looked at in detail in the future.

Ms Simone Geyer, Chief Director of Human Resources at the DBE, commented that the overriding objective was to ensure that education was achieved at the highest level.

The Chairperson thanked ELRC and adjourned the meeting.


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