The Education and Labour Relations Council (ELRC) Secretary General attended to present the Strategic Plan for 2013/15 and the Annual Performance Plan 2014/16. However, many of the slides presented were not accompanied with figures or defined targets, with the only figures presented being in relation to the budget, which specified that R9.3 million was due to be spent on dispute management, R27.7 million on collective bargaining services and R11.2 million on dispute prevention services. The reserve fund was intended to rise to R7.4 million.
All parties expressed concern that Exco had not attended the meeting, noting that it was not the administrative staff, but Exco, that was responsible for setting budgets and targets and therefore there was no opportunity for Members to interrogate these thoroughly. They also unanimously expressed their concerns that the report presented was incomplete in several respects, either lacking any mention of important information, or lacking targets and specifics. There were further questions whether the report had been signed off, and on what was being done about irregularities in spending that appeared to have taken place in the previous year. Members noted that the report lacked evidence of research and findings, made no mention of the role of the ELRC in the current labour disputes that were likely to lead to a full-blown strike and also failed to deal with several other critical issues. Members questioned the current situation with salaries of principals and deputy principals, the targets for reducing absenteeism, whether there was a standard policy, or rules, on converting temporary to permanent staff. They wanted further clarity on the gaps in skills development, pointed to inconsistencies in the figures presented, required figures for dispute resolution, which were important to set targets for the following years, and said that without these the plans were incomplete. They were concerned as to how ELRC was involved in disputes concerning children, commenting that these were critical issues that required proper management and interventions. Several Members questioned why the training targets remained unchanged from year to year. They were concerned that the South African Teachers Union, ELRC and the Department of Basic Education must meet urgently to resolve the current issues, and that ELRC must explain what role it would take. They furthermore questioned the vacancy rates, the actions that were taken in the provinces, particularly Eastern Cape, to resolve difficulties, wanted to hear more on incentives and recommendations for teachers.
Members agreed that it was fruitless to proceed with the meeting, in the absence of Exco, and agreed also that the report would not be accepted by the Committee. Another meeting would be convened for 23 April at which Exco was expected to be present, with a redrafted presentation.
Education and Labour Relations Council Strategic Plan 2013/15 & Annual Plan 2014/16
Ms Cindy Fola, General Secretary and Accounting Officer, Education and Labour relations Council presented a report on the Strategic Plan covering the three years from 2013 to 2015 and the Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2014 to 2016. The report firstly briefly touched on the legislative mandates, situational analysis and strategic objectives. She noted that the core role of the Education and Labour Relations Council (ELRC) was to ensure the development of effective policies in a non disruptive environment, in order to promote peaceful negotiations and collective bargaining services in the education environment. She also made mention of, but did not elaborate upon, the mandate imposed in terms of the Constitution’s sections 23, 28 (2) and 29 (1), the Labour Relations Act (LRA) No 66 of 1995, and the Employment of Educators Act (EEA) No 76 of 1998.
She noted that amendments effected in the last year by way of the Further Education and Training (FETC) Act No 3 of 2012, and the Higher Education and Training Laws Amendment Act 25 of 2010. She also noted that the Labour Appeal Court rulings had a bearing
Ms Fola then gave an overview of the 2013/2014 budget and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) Estimates. This was the only slide that carried financial projections, of expenditure outcomes and approved budgets. The approved budget for the core services of the ELRC for 2012/2013 financial year was broken down as follows:
-Core Services: Dispute Management Services R9 316 357
-Collective Bargaining Services R27 722 599
-Dispute Prevention Support Services R11 211 711.
She then noted the budget classified by programme, with Administration Services (or Executive Services) at R7 216 261, and Corporate Services at R14 141 490
Finally, Ms Fola noted that the trend indicated a surplus reserve of R7 464 200, higher than of the previous financial year 2011/2012.
Mr A Mpontshane (ANC) queried the current position with the assessment process of principals and deputy principals. He thought that there was still an ongoing dispute on salaries and that this matter was still with the ELRC, and asked for clarity whether this was correct.
Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) queried why the staff of the ELRC had given the presentation and not the Exco. He noted that whilst the staff could always come to support Exco, they were not accountable nor had they set the targets and would thus be able to explain them. He referred them to the targets, saying that there was a target for a declining rate of absenteeism, but this was not quantified, was too vague and needed to be clarified.
Mr Dikobo further noted that the system of using temporary educators varied from province to province, and in some provinces the conversion of temporary into permanent staff happened within a short period of time, whilst in other provinces they might wait for this for up to five years. He asked what the ruling of the ELRC was on this point, and questioned why there were no uniform rules on the issue.
Mr Dikobo felt that the ELRC should have clarified the gaps in skills development, and said that the skills could be academic or otherwise, but this was not specified or defined.
Mr Dikobo also pointed to inconsistencies in the charts, and queried what went wrong there.
Mr Dikobo also referred to the budget, and said, reiterating his earlier point, that the budget was not set by the administrative staff. In his view, given the absence of any of the Exco members, the meeting should not proceed.
Mr C Moni (ANC) noted that the statement about dispute resolutions gave absolutely no clarity on amounts or percentages of increases and decreases, although these were important figures that needed to be quantified and clarified, particularly to allow for goal-setting for the future.
Ms A Mashishi (ANC) added that the lack of proper breakdowns in the targets was not something that could be dealt with or commented on at this meeting. There were no figures and that meant that the plans were incomplete.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) did not like to proffer negative comments, but felt obliged to say that she found this report completely unacceptable. She wondered if the report had in fact been signed off as acceptable, as it should never have been. She shared other Members’ views and cited the equity targets, which were not quantified. She asked that ELRC define what percentages it was working on, for it was unclear how, and by what amount, it aimed to improve, and also wanted the demographic groups to be defined. Similarly the statements about improvement could not be quantified. She thought that the Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Basic Education should be asked to comment on this report.
Ms Lovemore further referred to page 15 of the presentation, which dealt with disputes involving children, and asked how the ELRC became involved in these situations. She emphasised that such disputes were critical and needed proper intervention and resolution. She had also asked for clarification of the processes and interventions that were in place, and their efficacy. She then referred also to page 18 of the report, that set a measurement for the percentage of disputes successfully concluded- and requested what would happen to the cases that were not successfully concluded. She wondered if a full-blown strike could result if a dispute was not successfully concluded.
Ms Lovemore also commented that page 24 of the presentation dealt with training and development for 2014, but commented that the figures remained the same as previous years and there was not enough clarity on the competence levels. She queried whether the 20% figure reflected the staff that were incompetent, and commented that the report actually highlighted incompetence more than anything else. There was generally a glaring lack of clarity.
Ms Lovemore also made the point that the relationship between South African Teachers Union (SATU) and the ELRC and the Director General of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had to be resolved by all parties meeting to discuss the issues. The SATU blamed the breakdown in communication on the DBE, and had threatened that strikes would take place within the next two weeks – which would be full-blown strikes. It was necessary for ELRC to explain what intervention it would take, and whether its role would be proactive, as there was a dispute.
Mr D Smiles (DA) also expressed his concerns that the report was inadequate, and suggested that the Committee not accept it, in view of the numerous inaccuracies.
Mr Smiles posed the question whether the strategic goals were supposed to assist the provincial departments. He drew specific attention to the role of the ELRC in the Eastern Cape, with respect to the temporary teachers who needed to receive permanent appointments, and noted media reports in The Herald newspaper. He also pointed out that that although dispute resolution and collective bargaining was the core function of ELRC it did not appear to be acting well enough.
Ms N Gina (ANC) mentioned that the targets were far too low, questioned how they had been established and calculated, and said that generally the report showed little to be desired.
Ms Gina also commented that the training figure of 240 delegates had been used consistently over the past few years, and she questioned why this was never changed. She felt that on several issues the ELRC had simply failed to comment. The financial expenditure figures needed more clarification and she pointed out that the ELRC, in operating, had to account for the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.
Ms Gina further queried the high vacancy rates, and wanted to hear of incentives for teachers, and said that far more elaboration, as well as recommendations, would be required on these two key issues.
Finally, Ms Gina agreed with her colleagues that Exco’s failure to attend to account to this Committee meant that the meeting was fruitless.
The Chairperson asked how the report had been accepted and signed off. She pointed to the fact that in the 2011/12 financial year, there was a point raised about fruitless and wasteful expenditure, citing the amount of R500 000 that had been paid out, without getting tenders, and noted that this was unacceptable.
The Chairperson also noted that the information on programmes was inconsistent and incomplete. The Chief Financial Officer was accountable for supply chain management. The irregularities should have been picked up, and these all needed to be addressed.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would require a final draft of the report, within a defined and short time frame.
Ms Fola said that the final draft was in place and it just needed to be signed off. The current disputes on the wage for the markers for the matriculants’ final papers was referred to court. This matter had firstly been withdrawn, but was later then re-submitted to court by the union. It was almost impossible for the ELRC to act as an enforcer on this issue, due to the contradictory processes. Where there was a dispute that was not resolved, it was supposed to be referred to arbitration. ELRC was supposed to enforce compliance with this, but due to the state of the processes, this was not possible.
The Chairperson noted that the majority of Members present were of the view that the report should be rejected. Under the circumstances, another meeting would be convened, for Tuesday 23 April, at which the Exco must be present, to account for and clarify the plans and budget.
The meeting was adjourned.
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