Sunday, May 29, 2022

Different reactions to classification of teaching as essential service

Government’s decision to declare teachers as essential services without first consulting them has been met with uproar.

A number of opposition politicians and local attorneys say it was procedurally unfair not to consult the affected employees. Questions were also raised as to whether the decision was made in the public interest or simply meant to thwart the ongoing public sector strike.

Last week, government moved swiftly to amend Section 49 of the Trade Disputes Act to declare teachers, veterinary services and others as essential services. The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs has, pursuant to section 49 of the Trade Disputes Act (CAP.48:02), amended the Schedule to the Act to include diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, teaching services and veterinary services, as essential services. The selection of these services was done in the national interest, with a view to protecting industries which are of critical importance to the economy, and to promote the rights of children to uninterrupted education Teachers have read malice into the move, and vowed to contest the decision in court as they were never consulted.

However, attorney Parks Tafa of Collins and Newman said Siele was acting within the law when he made the amendment.

“The Minister is empowered by section 49 of Trade Disputes Act. He does not even need to go to parliament, as parliament has delegated authority to him,” he said.

He said the teachers’ complaints that they were not consulted were unfounded as there was no equest for consultation when making the amendment.

“The law is very straight forward. There is no request for consultation.
If they contest the decision in court they will fail because their application will be frivolous and unmeritorious,” he said.

Tafa added that Siele was also acting on a motion that was recently passed by Ntlo ya Dikgosi, which recommended that teaching services should be declared as essential.

While Siele acted within the law, attorney Dick Bayford said the affected employees should have been consulted.

“Government’s actions lacked procedural fairness. Workers have a legitimate expectation to be consulted if there is an amendment to a law that directly impacts on their lives. It is a simple principle of natural justice,” he said.

He added that justice also dictates that laws should not have a retrospective effect.
“The minister’s decision should have considered that there is an ongoing strike which might be thwarted by amendment,” he said. Bayford added that it is questionable if teachers can be safely classified as essential services.

“While the list in not exhaustible, the definition of essential services primarily focuses on services that affect life, security, health and so on. It is obvious that teachers are not included in the list,” he said.

Another attorney, Anna Motlhagodi, said the timing of the amendment suggests that government was acting to frustrate the public sector strike.

“It seems government was acting to sort out an existing problem instead of instituting a law that will be effective and in the public interest going forward,” she said.

“This is a bad precedent. Government’s knee jerk reactions suggest that in future more repressive laws will be passed just to suppress dissenting opinions,” said BCP Secretary General, Kesitegile Gobotswang.

He also revealed that BCP President Dumelang Saleshando will in the next parliamentary sitting table a motion calling for the decision to be reversed. BCP also plans to work with unions to contest the classification of teachers as essential services at the International Labour Organization.

The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs has, pursuant to section 49 of the Trade Disputes Act (CAP.48:02), amended the Schedule to the Act to include diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, teaching services and veterinary services, as essential services. The selection of these services was done in the national interest, with a view to protecting industries which are of critical importance to the economy, and to promote the rights of children to uninterrupted education.The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs has, pursuant to section 49 of the Trade Disputes Act (CAP.48:02), amended the Schedule to the Act to include diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, teaching services and veterinary services, as essential services. The selection of these services was done in the national interest, with a view to protecting industries which are of critical importance to the economy, and to promote the rights of children to uninterrupted education.The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs has, pursuant to section 49 of the Trade Disputes Act (CAP.48:02), amended the Schedule to the Act to include diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, teaching services and veterinary services, as essential services. The selection of these services was done in the national interest, with a view to protecting industries which are of critical importance to the economy, and to promote the rights of children to uninterrupted education.1)

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper