The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) – the highest decision-making body between congresses, convened a two-day ordinary virtual meeting from 29 to 30 March 2021. The meeting was the first since schools officially opened for the 2021 academic year. Some of the issues the NEC deliberated on included organisational, labour, political, educational as well as socio economic matters.
Public service wage negotiations
The NEC meeting took place at the same time as the start of 2021/2022 public sector wage negotiations at the Public Service Co-Ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC). These negotiations take place against the backdrop of the non-implementation of the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018, which was to give public servants salary increments for 2020. SADTU and public service unions aligned to COSATU, namely DENOSA and POPCRU have applied at the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the Labour Appeal Court ruling that the Collective Agreement was unconstitutional and unlawful. The Unions are still waiting for the Constitutional Court to give the date for the hearing.
On the current negotiations (2021/22) the NEC has resolved that SADTU would continue to exhaust all available avenues. Should the employer frustrate the current negotiations by insisting on a wage freeze, the Union shall have no option but to ballot members for a strike. The Union is against austerity measures because such measures destroy the possibility of addressing the inequality and put brakes on economic recovery. The Union will not tolerate the destruction of the collective bargaining right.
The NEC condemned government’s threat to freeze public servants wages. If the freeze was to be implemented, public servants like other education workers would not afford the basic needs, let alone keep up with the rising costs of living that have been drastically increased by the pandemic. If the government was aiming for tighter controls, where does this leave the recruitment of future teachers and education workers into the public sector and how will the current teachers be retained if they could simply go to the private sector for better wages? Freezing of salaries will in no way contribute to economic development, for it is an established fact that where don’t have, lesser buying power, with little circulation of money, no economy will grow. The freezing of salaries has demoralised workers and is working against any dream of achieving an effective and efficient developmental state. Public Servants are heavily hungry and no NORMAL employer can expect them to excel at work.
The NEC resolved to establish subject committees to serve as a reference group to assist with the curriculum review and curriculum trimming processes in light of the three-year a curriculum recovery plan that was developed by the Department of Basic Education to manage the learning losses incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. The pandemic highlighted the inadequacies of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) that proved to be too rigid and content heavy.
The subject committees will serve as a strong vehicle for subject teachers who are SADTU members to contribute to the continuous process of curriculum policy development and review; to provide a platform for debate, discuss, disseminate and analyse the state of subjects and guide the union’s inputs on curriculum issues and identify challenges in specific subjects and thus to present recommendations to improve curriculum interpretation and implementation.
“I AM A SCHOOL FAN” Campaign
The NEC raised, as one of the major points, the safety and dignity of education workers and learners within the schooling environment. The NEC understood that the violence at schools against education workers and amongst learners could only defer our trajectory towards improved education outcomes. The NEC, therefore, decided to intensify SADTU’s campaign – “I am a School Fan” to highlight the plight of education workers and to promote community involvement in education.
The NEC lamented the role of sporting federations in school sports and insisted that this was not advancing the sport. Instead, federations hinder mass participation and involvement of the majority of schools more especially those in the rural and township areas. There is a continuous disjuncture between how the Department of Sports and federations continue to negate and ignore the Department of Basic Education which is meant to be in charge of schools and children. Disparities and lack of uniformity continue to plague schools sports and schools with capacity and means allow federations to operate within their environment leaving behind less privileged schools who do not have the means and capacity.
The NEC resolved to convene a meeting with the Department of Basic Education to establish the best way forward for the participation of less-resourced schools in sport.
The NEC noted the Directions that have been issued by the Department of Basic Education regarding the resumption of sports in schools. The NEC resolved that it will ensure that Covid-19 safety regulations were observed on the ground to ensure the safety of learners, teachers and officials during sporting events.
The struggle against Gender-Based Violence, sexual harassment and the Gender Pay Gap
The Union will continue campaigning against Gender-Based Violence at the workplace. We call on our government to expedite the process of rectifying the ILO Convention C 190 which is one of several attempts to end violence and harassment in the world of work.
Employment of cleaners, screeners and education assistants
As contracts for cleaners, screeners and education assistants who were employed in the midst of Covid-19 come to an end on 31 March, the NEC called for this programme to be a permanent feature. The NEC noted that the Covid-19 was still prevalent and the assistance provided by these workers was still needed in schools. Covid-19 protocols still remained in place; they require that whoever enters school premises should be screened, premises should remain clean at all times and teachers need to be assisted with administrative and paperwork. This has been SADTU’s call even before the COVID-19 pandemic because we understood that having education assistants and additional capacity to assist with other non-core functions that are critical within the schooling environment is important.
Covid -19 and the Easter weekend
Noting the opening of the 2021 academic year under the cloud of Covid-19, the NEC commended teachers, education support personnel and learners for building the required resilience and making schools and other training institutions a formidable barrier against the transmission of the virus.
As the country was about to take the Easter long-weekend break, the NEC called on all South Africans not to drop their guard in observing Covid-19 regulations. The Easter period attracts large gathering as religious organisations hold Easter services while others visit families across provinces. The NEC urged churches to understand that restricting gatherings was not intended to undermine religion but rather to save lives.
No to vaccine imperialism!
The NEC raised serious concerns about the slow pace of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme and blamed the inherent weaknesses of a capitalist system and vaccine imperialism for this. Multinational pharmaceutical corporations from the United State and Western Europe dominates the research and development of Covid-19 vaccines. Some of these countries use their imperialist financial muscles to pursue Covid -19 vaccine nationalism, including through hoarding, making the vaccines inaccessible and unaffordable to many global South countries.
The NEC also lambasted multinational companies for using pharmaceutical patents to undermine access to vaccines. More than 250 research and education organisations, including global teacher union federation, Education International (EI) which SADTU is affiliated to, have called on the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive any intellectual property rights for vaccines and treatments related to Covid-19 and urgent action to address copyright barriers preventing access to knowledge.
The NEC reiterated the Union’s call and campaign for the Copyright Amendment Bill to be made into law, the NEC reiterated this call. If the Bill is passed, it will not only assist in the development of the country’s scientific capacity as we battle the pandemic but will significantly assist in ensuring access to education material for all as we explore innovations like blended learning in response to the pandemic.
Researchers contend that in some countries with flexible copyright systems, residents were able to access and use essential materials in remote educational, learning and research activities and use the collections of libraries and other institutions, and contribute to research on treatments. Access to this information could be key to developing Covid-19 treatments.
SADTU is part of the People’s Vaccine Campaign to put pressure on the World Trade Organisation to transform and treat all member states as equals and review TRIPS and WIPO regulations.
The NEC resolved to join progressive organisations including COSATU and the SACP in calling for the lifting of patents on Covid-19 vaccines to allow Global South countries that can develop the productive capacity to manufacture the vaccines themselves. Further, the Union will work with like-minded organisations across civil society to develop a programme to intensify the call for the finalisation of the parliamentary processes around the Copyright Amendment Bill.
The National Democratic Revolution and local government elections
The NEC welcomed the statement of the NEC of the ANC; it presented the NEC with another opportunity to self-correct and deal with all the sins of incumbency. The NEC remained skeptical though because statements, on their own, are not enough to renew the ANC as a vehicle to advance the cause of the people of South Africa for social justice. We need to move from statement to action and apply all rules consistently
The NEC noted that SADTU has a standing congress resolution that affirms the ANC but with clear expectations from the ruling party.
The NEC raised concern that the recent undermining of collective bargaining might destroy all the gains the public servants secured under and ANC-led government. These include among others, the equalisation of salaries and conditions of work of all teachers across racial, gender and geographical line and a pro-poor budget with more resources directed to the children of the poor.
The NEC will attend the Special CEC of COSATU to urge the federation to play a key role towards a radical reconfiguration of the alliance as per the resolution of the last Congress. This could open space on how we will participate in electoral politics beyond the 2021 Local Government elections.
The NEC urged the ANC to remove this unnecessary hurdle created by the government’s non-implementation of the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157
Secretariat Officer, Xolani Fakude: 071 355 1566