Presentation by the President of SASCO at the SAHRC Seminar on The Impact of the Exercise of the Right to Strike on the Rights of Education and Access to Health Services
28 August 2007, SAHRC Offices Parktown, Johannesburg
"Right to Strike versus the Right to Education"
- Profound greetings to Comrade Jody Kollapen (Chairperson: SAHRC) and his team at the Commission and deepest gratitude for inviting SASCO.
- Overarching issue: This dialogue is important for the human rights culture and the strengthening of democracy in South Africa.
- Overarching issue: What kind of a society are we building???
- We only hope that our input will help in finding solutions for the common challenges we face regarding the topic under discussin. More questions???
- We are also here to lobby the Commission for the racism and human rights abuses in UOFS just like we called upon the Commissionin Tukkies a while back.
- Our input will speak directly to the right to education vis-â-vis the right to strike. And we leave health for other speakers!
- Will avoid an academic debate; more organic!
We are not here to make a strong case for students per se. We are here for a perspective!
- This is clearly a political and legal matter; simultaneously.
- Both the rights are a product of a collective struggle for freedom by all the oppressed people of SA including the students andthe worker. Freedom now; education later!
- 1994 brought changes (Bill of Rights, democracy etc). Education now; Freedom Forever! : These are sectoral rights, irreconcilable and fundamental. Indeed very difficult to manage in practice. That's their nature! An illustration of competing demands in the formation of a new SA and the resolution of its challenges???
- Section 29 in the Bill of Rights: Right to Education and Section 23: Right to Strike in Act 108 of 1996 as amended.
- Although the right to education is guaranteed in the constitution, the right to strike makes it difficult to protect the student/learner!
- From a student point of view; the right to education is fundamental!
The challenge: How to balance?
The irony is that both workers and the students do engage in class boycott. Every year in January classes are disrupted by students demanding access to education and normally the public sector or teacher's strike coincides with exams.
- Workers voluntarily forfeit their right to salaries and students voluntarily forfeit their right to learning. Contradictory!
- In the long term, the underlying challenges facing both worker and the student must be addressed. This would mean making education free and eradicating conditions exploitation for the workers.
- It can be argued that, the worker's demand for better salaries is for themselves and their children (the very students) and that in turn the strike is in the overall beneficial to students much as it is detrimental.
- Section 36: Limitation Clause: To which extent can it be applied in this situation? Do the students have legal recourse; is it practically enforceable; what choices do we have really? Legal route (remedy)
- In practice on the ground we rely on the spirit of voluntarism, human solidarity and compassion that workers will understand their duty to educate their children. Political route (remedy)
- The TUT Case: NEHAWU v/s TUT Management and the position of students: Classes were suspended for more than a week!
- Minimise the negative impact
- Creative struggles informed by student and worker solidarity.
- Practice and theory have proven certain stereotypes wrong; students find themselves voluntarily willing to stand in solidarity with the workers and sacrifice themselves because of the dep appreciation of the complex nature of our struggle and their dependence on their parents for sustenance. And students expect workers to make services better and help them recover the time lost after the strike.
- To which extent can we use legal instrument to limit the right of the worker to strike. Are the political interventions acceptable and effective, to which extent can we rely on their voluntary nature? What is the role of government???
- Shorten the strike in the interest of both parties???
- Recovery plans; postâ€strike arrangements: voluntary or paid???
- Bottom line: What kind of a society are we building???
- Khutsong situation is different?
- Soweto school boycott by COSAS?
Sectoral rights tend to be selfish and subjective!
The mere fact that these rights are codified in law does not make them automatically practicable or without contradictions. Daily experiences must serve as lessons to understand, improve, apply and advance these rights. But the friction is perhaps permanent in any given society.
The mere fact that we have this dialogue; it is in itself an indication that freedom does not end with achieving a formal democracy or a free society; it is in the continuation of the struggle for even better freedom that we can satisfy our (collective) desire for freedom and equality!