Union Meetings Compromising Learners’ Rights

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

DESPITE appalling teacher absenteeism levels across the province, teacher unions in KwaZulu-Natal are not required to seek permission from KZN MEC, Senzo Mchunu, nor his deputy, Nkosinathi Sishi, before calling educators to meetings during school hours – instead unions must only “give a reasonable period notice for the time-off to the responsible supervisor designated by the employee”.

The information is contained in a parliamentary reply to questions submitted by the DA to the KwaZulu-Natal education department following a recent Sadtu mass meeting in Pietermaritzburg held during teaching time. One of the questions posed by the DA is whether the department requested that the union move the meeting to a later time to avoid disruption to teaching time. In his reply, the MEC evades the question but admits that despite regular meetings with employee unions, the department has very little control over union activities and when they are scheduled. He further states that the general reasons given at affected schools on time-off registers are mostly “attendance of Union meeting’ or “attendance of a branch meeting”.

This is a system that lays itself open to abuse and which further compromises the learners of this province. The DA firmly believes that it is high time that national government tabled a resolution at bargaining council level, aimed at restricting teachers from being absent during school hours due to union business.

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