The curious case of DHET’s permanency contracts with lecturers

───   OLEBOGENG MOTSE 15:16 Wed, 15 Sep 2021

The curious case of DHET’s permanency contracts with lecturers | News Article
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The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has weighed in on its ongoing contractual dispute between itself and community learning centre lecturers over the standardisation of salaries.

The department vehemently denies that community learning centre lecturers in the Free State are yet to receive contracts of permanency despite their payslips indicating otherwise as of June 2021. They say all community learning centre employees received their letters of permanency in 2020 and said letters outline their working conditions and the standardisation of salaries that came into effect in June 2021. The standardisation which has brought about changes to working hours, salaries and benefits associated with being permanent government employees, has elicited outrage and a great deal of confusion on the part of lecturers who maintained that they have not signed such contracts and were only notified of the standardisation via conflicting government circulars. The manager of the Golden Fountain Community Learning Centre in Xhariep, George Cupido, maintains DHET is not telling the truth.

READ MORE: FS community learning centres on a go-slow

According to Cupido, a March 2021 circular signed off by the DHET Director-General, says as of June 2021, all lecturers at the aforementioned centres will be bound to work 3 hours per day, five days a week. This comes up to 15 hours per week. This is down from the 19 hours that the lecturers used to work over a four day period whilst still under the jurisdiction of the Department of Basic Education. The centres were switched to DHET in 2015. He says this March 2021 circular has since been contradicted by at least two others. The first says the standardisation needed to be greenlit by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) before implementation and a second from the Free State Department stated that lecturers with a relative education qualification value (REQV) of below 13 would work 15 hours per week, whereas those with an REQV level of 13 and 14, including centre managers, would work 25 hours per week and be compensated accordingly. “We are confused now. We don’t know how many hours we should work. We expect them to solve the problem and provide us with a permanent contract that specifies the conditions of employment,” says Cupido angrily.

READ MORE: Community learning centre employees struggle with 45,5% salary cut

DHET on the other end of this says they, in fact, consulted with the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) on the standardisation of salaries for these centres as well as varied labour unions. “That process began with a settlement agreement signed in the GPSSBC in February 2019. Consultation with recognised unions continued from then until implementation, which is ongoing. In addition, there were various circulars and presentations provided to staff and management teams in CET colleges,” says DHET.

OFM News’ is in possession of a statement from the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) in the Western Cape dated August 2021, which states that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) is the only union that has signed off on a standardisation agreement with DHET. Yet the standardisation is already in place across the board.

In the meantime, DHET has requested lecturers to appoint a task team in each province in the country. Each task team is meant to ascertain the issues lecturers have with the current process in place. OFM News has been informed that the task teams are scheduled to meet with DHET later in the week to discuss some of the aforementioned issues.

This is a developing story.

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