Sadtu wants basic education's Soobrayan fired

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union wants department of basic education's Bobby Soobrayan sacked after a dispute over matric marker's wages. (Gallo)

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union wants department of basic education's Bobby Soobrayan sacked after a dispute over matric marker's wages. (Gallo)

Sadtu wants Soobrayan sacked with immediate effect. The union said it decided this in its recent national executive committee meeting.

Sadtu threatened that Soobrayan’s "continuous stay in the department will only guarantee one thing – labour unrest".

Nkosana Dolopi, the union’s deputy general secretary, told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday: "Our programme of action will be dependent on Soobrayan doing the honourable thing – that is to resign or be dismissed."

"We strongly feel he’s an agent that can cause unrest in the education sector," added Dolopi.

With over 250 000 members, Sadtu is the largest teacher union in the country. Its strikes usually lead to the complete shutdown of public schools.

Agreement disputed
The union’s latest gripe with Soobrayan stems from a longstanding dispute over remuneration increments for matric exam markers.

Sadtu said the department agreed to hike the increments up by 100% at the Education Labour Relations Council in April 2011.

Soobrayan signed the agreement, which the M&G has seen, on behalf of the department, while Mugwena Maluleke and Henry Hendricks signed for Sadtu and the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) respectively.

But when the department had to implement the agreement with unions, it declared a dispute at the national chamber in May this year, alleges Sadtu.

The union said the department claimed Soobrayan erred in signing the agreement.

The department "alleged that Soobrayan mistakenly signed the collective agreement without having properly read its contents", said Sadtu.

"He allegedly signed the collective agreement without following proper internal processes [and] did not receive the necessary mandate from the minister of basic education and the minister of finance to bind the state into such an agreement with huge financial implications to the state,” said the union.

The unions are insisting that the 100% increment increase agreement be implemented.

“The agreement was on his table for the entire month [March last year] before he signed it. But now that they have to implement, they are pulling some tricks,” Dolopi said.

Naptosa’s Hendricks confirmed the department "indicated they had not gone through proper mandating processes" before signing the agreement as a reason for lodging the dispute.

Sadtu wants Soobrayan held accountable over this and fired. His action undermined collective agreements, it said.

“It cannot be accepted that [Soobrayan] signed an agreement with financial implications without getting a mandate from the minister of education and the minister of finance and such an oversight is treated as a mere mistake with no consequence,” said the union.

Matric exam markers
Thousands of teachers and subject experts are appointed as exam markers during the matric final exams.

In KwaZulu-Natal alone, 76 chief markers, 203 deputy chief markers, 1 512 senior markers and 7 650 markers were appointed to mark papers of over 156 000 matrics.

Across the country, there are more than 30 000 markers handling exam papers of 647 687 matrics at 118 marking venues.

According to the agreement signed between the department and unions, markers at level one would earn R217.10 per hour and senior markers at the same level would earn R232.60 per hour.

Sadtu’s national executive committee "concluded that [Soobrayan] is incompetent, dishonest and is therefore not fit to hold such an astute office".

The dispute is yet to be concluded at the chamber last month when the department demanded that it be referred to the Labour Court.

Soobrayan had not responded to the M&G's request for comment at the time of going to print.

Bongani Nkosi

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