Ditsela Work Programme: briefing

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Employment and Labour

05 September 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 September 2006

Chairperson: Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Ditsela Resource and Information Centre (available at www.ditsela.org.za)
Celebrating a Decade of Service to Workers Education

The Development Institute for Training Support and Education for Labour (Ditsela) briefed the Committee on its work programme. The briefing provided an overview of support given to trade unions; achievements over the last ten years and the importance of building and maintaining a strong labour movement in South Africa.

The Committee acknowledged the good work that was being done by Ditsela and also emphasised the fact that worker education was critical especially in a society like SA that has an active trade union movement.


Introductory remarks by the Chair

The Chairperson opened the meeting with a strong emphasis on the need to capacitate the workers in South Africa. She acknowledged that capacity building is a critical element for any developing society and that South Africa needed to have well trained workers that will meaningfully add to the productivity of the country. It was important for Members to learn about the contributions that various institutions are making in trying to create a stable workforce in South Africa.

Development Institute for Training Support and Education for Labour (Ditsela) briefing

Mr Gino Govender (Executive Director) divided his presentation into three parts. The first part was centred on an overview of the work programme provided. Ditsela was an organisation that assists with the training of workers, more especially trade union members about the issues that they had to be aware of as part of the working class.

The second part of the presentation was on achievements over the last ten years, as well as the challenges that they faced accompanied by the key challenges of workers education. He stated that the idea of establishing Ditsela was discussed prior to the 1994 democratic elections in discussions about the future education and training system in the country. The trade union movement recognised this as a site for learning. Ditsela became an institution for more advanced training in the trade union movement.

The third part of the presentation was on the need to seek recognition of trade unions as providers of education to be able to build and maintain a strong labour movement in the country. Ditsela was launched on 29 November 1996 and started as a negotiator between the Federation of Unions in SA (FEDUSA), the Confederation of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Department of Labour in trying to assess how much work was being done with regards to worker education. This is a Section 21 not for profit organisation and is led by a National Governing Board of Directors. The organisation has also adopted the Public Finance Management Act as well as the King Commission Report on Corporate Governance as their guiding documents for the operations of their staff. Mr Govender further explained that funding was just under R12 million, and a large amount of it came from taxpayers while some support from the National Skills Fund (NSF) as well as international donor funding to enabled them to run their programmes efficiently.

Mr Govender went on to explain that the core ‘business’ of Ditsela was to provide a dynamic worker education sector which deals with the challenges in the worker society. They tried to be on the cutting edge of trade union education. The aim is not to do the work for the unions or the federations, but they merely facilitated the educational overview for the workers. They also opened space for critical reflection and organisation by forming working class solidarity and they aimed to create respect and tolerance for a more democratic debate. He mentioned that if the country wanted to build more capacity, it needed to develop individuals that would help develop the organisation.

Mr Govender stated that it was important to engage with constituencies as well as building organisational capacity, as it was a continuous process by which members, leaders and staff would achieve their objectives. Everything done at Ditsela is needs based. Mr Govender explained that Ditsela had submitted a three-year proposal to the Department of Labour about their programme of action. Ditsela is poised for growth and expansion and they were going to use the 10th anniversary as an opportunity to reflect and develop as an organisation.

With regards to their daily programmes, Ditsela had a national programme of three schools that they managed. The first is the communication school, the second is the union administrators school, and finally an organisational development management school. They currently ran an accredited course at the University of the Western Cape and had an educator’s course at Wits whereby workers come together and learn about other skills and knowledge. At the provincial level, each of the schools are preceded by a rigorous two-day analysis, and they identified needs for specific programmes, the elements of the programme and accredit modules that are on offer. There are intensive programmes with a range of complimentary courses. Provincial educators development has been running for two years and the idea behind it was to train shop stewards as worker educators. They tried to build their confidence and develop their facilitation skills as well as the key issues that workers needed to gain in delivering education.

Ditsela offers over 30 courses that run over a five-day period usually. The courses are modular and packaged in a way that it could be tackled thoroughly. With regards to support, Mr Govender alluded to the fact that there are 12 projects and they provided support together with FEDUSA and COSATU and their respective affiliates. The basic theme of all these courses is to tell workers how to use the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). In fact on Friday the 8th of September they will be signing an agreement with the CCMA. At times the unions came to Ditsela with specific requests and they also offer leadership training programmes and have also facilitated conferences with trade unions. Part of the task involves research and information gathering. They started producing an organisation book on how to hold successful meetings; it was an easy to read booklet and was part and parcel of the Siyakha series. They also ran two rural schools in the Western Cape after a request from farm workers in Outshoorn, bearing in mind that union infrastructure in rural areas is not the same as in urban areas. They conceded that they needed to worker closer with the Department of Laour of how best to train civil servants to learn about labour rights.

Mr Govender announced that there would be a Ditsela Educators Conference from 27 to 30 November 2006 with the theme “Celebrate, Consolidate, Innovate”. Moving to the international landscape, Mr Govender noted that Ditsela had developed good international relations and had signed memoranda of understanding with countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. Even as far away as Latin America, Asia, America and Europe, Ditsela is recognised and earlier this year they were at a meeting in New York with other similar institutions representing their respective countries.

Distela is a strong constituency-based organization. Over the years 25 000 participants have benefited from its programmes. Nationally Ditsela is the leading national provider and is investigating the feasibility of opening up another centre in the Mpumalanga province. Mr Govender conceded that more still needed to be done in strengthening their relationships. Organisations doing similar work should be commended.

Mr Govender went on to list the challenges they faced. The notion of traditional work (work, get paid, retire) in South Africa was evolving but the country was behind because in the global market education is all-important. Ditsela could not accommodate all needs as more capital would be required, both human and financial. Many companies are not complying with educating their workers and that proved to be problematic. Education for workers in highly democratic economies received large investments and South Africa had to adopt that approach because investing in training is a broader strategy to develop people. The Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) was good on paper, but things needed to start happening on the ground. The only people that benefited from Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were in the private sector. Worker education is the life blood of education in the country and Ditsela wanted society to recognise the value of trade union education because they wanted to build an informed trade union movement.

Mr Govender expressed the hope that the Committee would take worker education seriously as all should strive to build a strong worker education system in South Africa.

Mr L Maduna (ANC) asked for the character of JIPSA in the workplace to be unpacked.

The Acting Chairman of the Ditsela Board, Mr Joe Nkosi, said that JIPSA is still a fairly new concept in the South African worker education sector, and that the bulk of people remained uncertain about its role. Employers are not willing to meet the uninformed workers halfway, thus JIPSA and SETAs needed to begin talking to each other. The training courses that Ditsela offered did deal with skills acquisition.

Mr B
Mkongi (ANC) asked if there was a relationship between Ditsela and the rest of civil society. One of the objectives of government is to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, what was Ditsela doing to ensure that it also plays a role in assisting government to reach its target?

Mr Mike Louw (COSATU)) said that many of the functions of Ditsela were cross-cutting and there were some activities that involved civil society as many of the workers that have been trained by Ditsela came from civil society.

Mr Nkosi said with regards to halving poverty by 2014, an alternative industrial strategy was needed as well as recognition for prior learning. Employment did not all have to fall within the formal economy; at best the country may end up having achieved the target, but with informal employment like in Ghana and Nigeria.

Mr C Lowe (DA) asked if Ditsela was in a position to produce unqualified financial statements. He also asked if there was a healthy relationship between the Department of Education and the Department of Labour in trying to find a solution with the SETAs.

Mr Govender responded that financial statements could be made readily available and they would be circulated through the office of the Chairperson. It was simply not fair to say SETAs were not delivering because they were performing well in the private sector. The public sector needed to borrow their lessons. With regards to the relations between the two departments, Mr Govender conceded that the relationship was not healthy.

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) asked Ditsela to be more specific about its mandate. Do we have problems with our SETAs? Did Ditsela outsource training providers?

Mr Govender said Ditsela was not an organisation that interfered with the affairs of the unions, it merely facilitated the training of workers as well as other needs upon request. Some of the issues were union based issues. SETAs have had their fair share of challenges and it was the lack of monitoring and evaluation of the work done by SETAs that was a problem. There were also issues of corruption and no proper training being provided for new workers. Ditsela provided its own training.

Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) commented that the presentation mentioned the University of the Western Cape (UWC) as an accrediting institution and asked for elaboration. What lessons were being learnt from the Swaziland situation?

Mr Nkosi said union education would be introduced as part of a curriculum in certain institutions of higher learning. There were four modules that are accredited at UWC and all are at the advanced stage of learning. The University of Cape Town (UCT) and Wits University assessed the quality of the programmes. Ditsela has been making Swazi workers aware of their rights as workers. The federations were providing solidarity to the people of Swaziland.

Mr T Anthony (ANC) asked if funding was problematic to acquire. Many employers still used traditional labour practices and he wanted to know what Ditsela was doing about that. Can strikes be avoided if worker education is effectively done across the board?

Mr Govender responded that they were not experiencing a funding crisis. It was important that Ditsela, the Department of Labour and other relevant stakeholders monitored the situation on the ground. All parties needed to collectively come on board; it could not be an individual effort. He was aware that some employers still underpaid their staff. With regards to the strikes, the mindsets should change for as long as there is a division between the proletariat and the capitalists, differences would be experienced.

Ms H Weber (DA) said farmers believed trade unions were intimidating their workers and they have now mechanized their operations. What was the issue in this case?

Mr Govender said this referred to the issue of transforming the mindsets of employers and whether or not they were willing to assist government in realising a South Africa that was a winning nation.

The Chairperson commented on the critical work that is being done by Ditsela and said that more was still needed especially in the area of training shop stewards as they were the ones that represented the workers at the lower level. If they were not well educated it could prove to be problematic.

Mr Maduma wanted to know why Ditsela assisted FEDUSA with CCMA information, but not COSATU.

Mr Louw responded that Ditsela derives its mandate from its constituency. There was no specific request for support to COSATU for the provision of CCMA knowledge. Ditsela was approached by unions to provide support in their own individual capacity. Ditsela cannot monitor and evaluate all the bread and butter issues of the unions.

Ms L Moss (ANC) added that farmers were poorly treating their subordinates and workers. There was a race problem in the Western Cape. She commended Ditsela on the programme that they were offering to farm workers.

The Chairperson concluded that training and capacitating the workforce was both critical and fundamental for South Africa if the country were to achieve all its goals and targets.

The meeting was adjourned.



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