Further Education and Training Colleges Bill [B23-2006]: negotiating mandates

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


27 September 2006

Mr B J Tolo (ANC Northern Cape)

Relevant documents:
KZN Negotiating mandate
Mpumalanga Negotiating mandate
Limpopo Negotiating mandate
North West Negotiating mandate
Western Cape Negotiating mandate
Eastern Cape Negotiating mandate
Gauteng Negotiating mandate
Free State Negotiating mandate
Northern Cape Negotiating mandate
Constitutional Court judgement August 2006 for CCT 12/2005
Further Education and Training Colleges Bill [B23-2006]


The Committee went through the provincial negotiating mandates. Provinces complained that there was not enough consultation on the Bill. It was felt that the Bill would bring about too many uncertainties. Provinces appealed that the process should not be rushed and that more time should be afforded to provinces to carefully consider the Bill. The Western and Northern Cape provinces did not submit negotiating mandates. The KwaZulu-Natal legislature recommended that the time frames for implementation of the Bill should be reconsidered and the status quo should be retained for 2007. All other provinces proposed amendments to the Bill.

The Committee was mindful of the August 2006 Constitutional Court judgement against Parliament that had declared three bills invalid due to insufficient public participation. The judgement indicated that the National Council of Provinces had the power and duty to conduct hearings in provinces should provinces feel that they had not been adequately consulted.

The Chairperson thanked members for attending this meeting during recess since the August/September parliamentary session had finished on 22 September. There were timeframes within which this legislation had to be processed. The Committee should have dealt with the mandates before it went to recess but it could not do so due to time constraints. He asked the Department to refresh the Committee's memory on the contents of the Bill.

Ms Penny Vinjevold (Deputy Director-General: Further Education and Training (FET), DOE) represented the Department. She said that the economic, equity and unemployment climate provided the background to the Bill. It was important for the country to start to see the FET College sector as one that could rapidly respond to the socio-economic needs of the country. There was an attempt to separate schools and colleges so that schools would continue to do the general education while colleges should be able to rapidly respond to the socio-economic needs of the country. The economic needs included shared growth and the reduction of youth unemployment. The Bill would make FET colleges a special entity in the FET landscape. The majority of people believed that FET colleges should be established as a special entity and should be flexible and responsive. Chapter 4 of the Bill was controversial. There were fears that there might be job losses as a result of the legislation. She assured members that this would not happen.

KwaZulu Natal Negotiating mandate
The KwaZulu-Natal legislature recommended that the time frames for implementation of the Bill should be reconsidered and the status quo should be retained for 2007. Numerous stakeholders had indicated that they were not consulted and were not afforded the opportunity to make input on the content of the Bill.

Free State Negotiating mandate
Mr T Setona (ANC)[Free State] explained that there had been no public hearings in the Free State. People were invited to make written submissions because there was insufficient time for hearings. The legislature was very sensitive to public hearings particularly given the recent Constitutional court judgement that declared three bills invalid due to insufficient public participation. There should be adequate public participation in the processing of this Bill. Various amendments were proposed to the Bill.

The Chairperson noted that the Explanatory Memorandum at the end of the Bill did not have a list of stakeholders who had been consulted. There would be problems if no consultation had taken place between the Department and stakeholders. He invited the Department to make some preliminary response to the issues raised in the mandates.

Limpopo Negotiating mandate
The mandate provided that Chapter 4 of the Bill should be explained thoroughly. There was a need for the reasons behind the insertion of this chapter and what clarity on what it sought to address. A question was raised whether there had been any formal discussion and/or consultation with Unions in view of the fact that the rights of educators would be tempered with. The terms and conditions of employment of educators from one institution to the other would be affected significantly. It was argued that some amendments should be effected to cater for the concerns raised.

Mpumalanga Negotiating mandate
The mandate submitted that colleges should be able to stand alone or have more than one campus. The management staff of the college should include the campus manager and the Chief Financial Officer. The bill should define the role of the campus manager. The word "campus principal" should be defined.

North West Negotiating mandate
The Portfolio on Education of the North West Provincial Legislature met with its stakeholders and consulted on the FET Amendment Bill. It was resolved that the delegate of the province should vote favour of the bill. No amendments were proposed.

Western Cape Negotiating mandate
The province could not submit a mandate because the relevant Committee was engaged in other activities. It requested an extension of a two weeks period.

Eastern Cape negotiating mandate
The province proposed that the definition of "management staff" in clause 1 should include vice principal or vice-principles to accommodate Colleges with more than one vice -principals and to ensure that this clause was consistent with other clauses of the Bill. The Bill was silent on the issue of the Provincial Board for FET Colleges that was reflected in White Paper 4 and it was submitted that they should be accommodated in the Bill. Vice principals should form part of the Council in terms of clause 10(4). Alternatively they should be included as ex officio members without voting rights.

Gauteng negotiating mandate
The critical amendment from the members of the public and stakeholders related to the transfer of contracts of employees to the college councils. Stakeholders raised fears that the basic conditions of service would decline end many of the benefits currently provided could be withdrawn. Stakeholders further raised concerns around the limitation of programmes being funded by the Department of Education and suggested that Further Education and Training Colleges should be capacitated to offer a wide scope of programmes that would meet national and provincial skills needs. Stakeholders also raised concerns related to the capacity of council members to deal with labour issues and the commitment of council members to attend to the extensive duties required of them. It was suggested that council members be remunerated for adequate performance of their duties and that they be skilled to deal with Human Resource issues.

The provincial Committee made a number of recommendations which included the following:
- That the Department of Education takes full responsibility for funding of public colleges to ensure that colleges respond accordingly to the needs d learners and the skin needs of the communities they serve.

- That the Department of Education should also be responsible for the payment of staff salaries, as this would enable public colleges to flexibly utilize staff in a way that would enable them to offer a wide scope of programmes that would meet national and provincial skills needs. This would also avoid differences in payments of college staff and poaching of skilled staff from poor colleges with low salary scales. The department might also want to consider standardizing the post levels, salaries, workloads, job descriptions and other conditions of service.

- That, though there might be some consequences as a result of transfer of contracts from the department (which was a public sector) to the council ( a private sector), the departments ensures security of the benefits that it had been providing public college lecturers and support staff.

- That some incentives be considered for the members of the council to encourage their commitment in college matters.

Northern Cape negotiating mandate
The province could not convene a meeting to formulate a negotiating mandate because members were on recess. During the public hearings, it emerged that the stakeholders were vehemently opposed to the Bill. It was submitted that there should be more public hearings on the Bill.

Response by Department
Ms Vinjevold said that the development of the Bill had started from instructions by the Minister. The Department was obliged to consult all stakeholders including teachers' unions. There had been a special sitting with stakeholders where the Bill had been discussed and there were also two extensive meetings with unions. The Bill was put out for public comment and a period of six weeks was given because the Bill dealt with substantive issues. The Department had received extensive comments on the Bill and stakeholders were aware of the Bill. The Department had always ensured that it reminded colleges of the number of days left in the public comment period. It had also conducted road shows in all provinces. She was shocked to learn that there were people who claimed that they had not been consulted.

Mr Setona proposed that the Chairperson and provinces should enter into some kind of negotiations aimed at ensuring that the processing of the Bill was not disrupted. The Constitutional Court judgement had indicated that the National Council of Provinces could go to any place and conduct hearings there. Written submissions were different from hearings.

A KZN special delegate acknowledged that the government was working in the interest of all people. Colleges were concerned that the end of the year was approaching and they did not know what to say to the college population in relation to what would happen next year. There was no time to explain what would happen. He proposed that the process should be extended by a year so that the legislation could be processed thoroughly.

A special delegate said that public representatives should not ignore concerns from teachers unions. Unions had concerns that should be addressed. To respond to the concerns by simply saying that the Committee should pass law on a certain date irrespective of whether the concerns had been addressed, would have implications for the integrity of public representatives, government and democracy. The Committee should not ignore the uncertainties that had been raised by provinces.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) said that the Committee wanted to pay quality time to the legislation. The Committee did not want to pass legislation without input from the public. More time should be given to the provinces if the feeling was that they did not have time to consult stakeholders or to come up with proper negotiating mandates.

A Member of the Committee said that the Committee was compelled to afford more time for the consideration of Bill. The length of time was something that should be debated. The issues raised in the mandates were sharp and the Committee would not be able to address them by simply affording more time. Events could overtake the concerns.

The Chairperson said that it was important for the Committee not to take short cuts because it could be taken to court by provinces or members of the public.

Mr Setona said that there would be a legitimate case if the issue was that the public was not afforded an opportunity to participate in the process. The situation would be different if there were invitations to participate but people had decided not to take part for whatever reason. The country was concerned about the lack of transformation in the colleges. The Bill was a ground breaking step in the right direction. It would be unfair to stop the process indefinitely. There was a need for clarity on why the process should be stopped and on what issues there should be consultation.

The Chairperson said that it seemed that provinces did not have an opportunity to hold hearings. They should be afforded such opportunity and one could not say how much time should be given because the programmes of the legislatures would inform the hearing process. The Department would be required to respond to issues raised by provinces. Some issues were not addressed in the Bill and would be dealt with by way of regulations.

Ms Vinjevold agreed that provinces should be given more time to conduct public hearings. She felt that some of the proposals made by provinces would strengthen the Bill.

A Member of the Committee proposed that the response by the Department should also be given to provinces.

A special delegate said that the Department should afford audience to a province that might require such audience. A province that had received written responses might want more oral interaction with the Department.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would have one more meeting before considering the final mandates.

Mr Setona agreed saying that the Department of Social Development had allowed senior officials to go a province on request in order to address certain issues. There should be no problems with the Department given an audience to a province. He reminded the Committee that one should not create structures and then undermine them. The Department of Education was one of the departments which had institutionalised dialogue. The MinMEC was a platform for MECs to raise their concerns around a range of issues. it was assumed that MECs were able to take legislatures on board on these matters right from the moment of conceptualisation. It seemed that some MECs were not playing their roles as expected.

The Chairperson said that he expected the executive in provinces to take the lead. They should internalise the issues before they get to committees. It seemed that MECs were not part and parcel of lawmaking.

The meeting was adjourned.


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