24 August 2017
The High Court in Limpopo has today restored the rule of law, asserted its judicial authority and restored the right of members and other employees of the Education Department. This follows an urgent application by SADTU to the High Court to protect its members against unlawful deductions following a strike at the Head Office of the Department.
Following the strike, the Head of Department invited SADTU to a meeting where she informed SADTU that the Department would be applying the principle of no work no pay to its members. When SADTU pointed out that its members had never been on strike, she demanded that members provide police case numbers to prove that they were prevented from reporting for work. She then, in writing, informed SADTU that she was proceeding with the deductions.
SADTU approached its lawyers who wrote to the MEC and the HoD pointing out that their decision was unlawful and requesting an undertaking not to effect the deductions. It was after none of them responded that SADTU launched an urgent application.
The matter was first heard on the 1st August when the Department raised two points in law in attempt to avoid the merits of the application be heard. The court ruled against the Department with costs.
The main application was finally heard on the 10th August 2017. At the hearing of the application Judge Sikhwari reserved judgement but made an interim order interdicting the MEC and the HoD from proceeding with the deductions. This interim order was ignored and the deductions were effected prompting SADTU to bring another urgent application to compel the Department to refund all members whose salaries were affected by the deductions. The court granted an order ordering the MEC and the HoD to have all monies refunded. This order has also been ignored. SADTU is now forced to initiate contempt of court proceedings. This after SADTU's lawyers have written to the Department to ask them to indicate how they intend correcting their non-compliance with the court orders.
This judgement is precedent setting in many ways. Firstly, it confirms SADTU's policy of minimising disruption of schooling by being forced to protest to have legitimate demands being met. SADTU will always, if necessary, use the courts as an alternative to industrial action in the interest of learners. Equally important is that the High Court has ordered the MEC and the HoD to pay the costs of the application. This is however sad because public resources are now being used to fund what is clearly inefficiency. However, SADTU is happy that its resources are not being used to subsidise government ineptitude. The judgement and the other orders granted are also important because the Department will no longer rely on legal technicalities to avoid responsibility and accountability. More importantly this judgement and the other orders reaffirm the constitutional principle that public power must be exercised properly.
Something that is lacking in the manner in which decisions and actions are taken in this department.
SADTU has raised numerous concerns with both the MEC and the HoD which remain unresolved. Despite a court order SADTU obtained in December 2016, for the payment of the salaries of educators in particular, the problem persists.
SADTU calls upon the MEC and the HoD to engage meaningfully and in good faith to resolve other outstanding issues including the unlawful implementation of no work no pay on educators following a protest march on the 26th January 2017.
Should the MEC and the HoD not cooperate and assist in having these matters resolved, SADTU will have no other option but to pursue further legal and other avenues to obtain redress for members.
The MEC and the HoD are called upon to immediately reverse all deductions made from educators' salaries, ensure that no educator who has rendered a service is paid his or her salary and address other matters raised with them or face the consequences.
Issued by Secretariat:
Raphasha M.J. - Provincial Secretary :082 804 0800
Tjebane S.S. - Provincial Deputy Secretary: 082 808 3161