The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has backed down, for the moment, from its threat to take 53 000 Eastern Cape teachers on strike during the current matric exams. But tensions remain high after it lodged a court application against the province’s education department.
At issue in the action the union has launched in the Bhisho High Court is the 64 752 teachers the Eastern Cape education department has budgeted for in 2012. This — which is one of the unresolved conflicts Sadtu had cited in its strike threats — is far too low.
“There is no strike in sight at the moment — we are focusing on court action now,” Sadtu’s provincial chairperson, George Lukwe, told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday. “We filed an application at the Bhisho High Court on Thursday last week to set aside the 2012 post-provisioning.”
The union had set last Friday as its deadline for the provincial education department and national department of basic education to accept its demands.
But Sadtu can still ‘take action’
Despite backing off for now, the union could still “take action”, said Sadtu provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni. If the provincial department continued to “provoke” its members by continuing with planning based on the disputed 2012 post-provisioning numbers, then the union would be forced to “act”. He did not specify what form that might take.
In March this year the national department of basic education invoked section 100 of the Constitution and put the provincial education department under administration. Two weeks ago, Sadtu marched to the Eastern Cape premier’s office in Bhisho and handed over a memorandum of demands that included the removal of Modidima Mannya, the head of the Eastern Cape’s crisis-ridden education department.
The memorandum also demanded that more than 4 000 temporary teachers whose contracts were terminated last year be reinstated and that the department put aside its decision on how many teachers’ posts it would fund next year.
“The department did not follow correct processes [in deciding on the number of posts for next year] and the [provincial education minister] did not consult with unions,” Ndongeni said this week.
In letters to Mannya and provincial education minister Mandla Makupula on Monday, Sadtu’s attorney requested them in the light of the union’s court action to take no further steps regarding the 2012 posts.
“Pending the outcome of these proceedings, we would respectfully suggest that no further steps should be taken to rely on the 2012 post establishment. Please confirm that you will act accordingly, failing which our client will be obliged to precipitate matters to have the matter enrolled urgently,” the letters stated.
Eastern Cape education department spokesperson, Loyiso Pulumani, said the department was aware of the court action but could not provide further details.