Motshekga sets the record straight

Friday, March 8, 2013

Midrand – Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday clarified the situation between her department and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), saying it was important to set the record straight.

Motshekga, who was speaking during the National Teaching Awards ceremony, reassured all South Africans that the department would “never compromise labour peace and the value in our Constitution”.

Explaining the source of the differences between SADTU and the department regarding the payment of markers for the 2011 examinations, Motshekga said in April 2011, their negotiators erroneously signed an agreement that was not implementable.

“This was communicated to the parties and discussions on this matter had been going on since November 2011 and continued through conciliation, where parties were trying to find each other.

“We had agreed on an addendum to deal with the payment of markers for 2011. We further agreed that the erroneous agreement will be corrected in 2012 but by 2012, it had not been corrected and so we were forced again to use the addendum to pay for 2012,” she said.

On 7 April 2011 a collective agreement was entered into under the auspices of the Education Labour Relations Council. The purpose was recorded as being “to improve the remuneration of those who are appointed as markers in the National Examinations”.

The agreement was introduced to align the collective bargaining processes with the published gazette (Government Notice 187; Gazette 34079) of 2011. However, the tariffs inserted on page 3 of the collective agreement were in conflict with the above-mentioned gazette published in February 2011.

The error was picked up and communicated to the unions. The financial implication of the error was that the provinces would have had to pay an additional R700 million, which was not in their budgets.

The senior manager and middle manager responsible for the error were disciplined and given final written warnings for their negligence in this matter. As a result, the department did not proceed with the implementation of the erroneous agreement.

The unions accepted in principle that a bona fide error had occurred and this led to the addendum to Collective Agreement 1 of 2011, which was signed on 18 December 2011.

Motshekga said after the 2012 examinations, the parties then agreed on steps to be followed to rectify these errors.

However, Motshekga said she was taken aback when she started receiving letters of demand from SADTU, wanting the department to pay back markers on the basis of the agreement they all agreed was erroneously signed.

“… I received [a letter] at the end of February, demanding that markers be paid the next day on the basis of the erroneous agreement that all parties agreed in both 2011 and 2012 that is fundamentally flawed and could not be implemented.”

She stressed that the only reason she had to withdraw the agreement was to pave the way for a new agreement to be negotiated, in order for the matter to be amicably resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

“You cannot enter into negotiations for a new agreement with another agreement still on the table. People should … understand that we will not do anything to jeopardise the sector and undermine collective bargaining by recklessly withdrawing collective agreements.

“There was no malice on our part. This would be irresponsible to the extreme. As government, we make laws and thus are bound by them. [We] respect all the values in the Constitution,” Motshekga said.

She added that the department will invite SADTU to a meeting to discuss their reaction to the withdrawal of the agreement and further engage them to ensure they move with speed to resolve the impasse. –