The DA welcomes the ANC's change in stance regarding teaching as an essential service. This change supports the DA's long-held position on the issue, which holds that the interests of learners are best balanced with teachers' right to strike if the limitations of the latter are clearly delineated.
The DA has been at the forefront of initiatives calling for changes to the status of this critical sector:
In October 2011, the DA submitted a Private Member's Bill to regulate teachers' right to strike, and balance this right with learners' right to education.
On 2 March 2012, we submitted questions to the President asking if Cabinet intends approving a Bill which restricts the right of teachers to strike or if there are legislative steps being taken to prevent strikes from disrupting the quality of education.
On 13 June 2012 we proposed in Parliament that the National Assembly debate the rights of teachers to strike and define its limits.
In August 2010 a South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) strike cost learners 12 million teaching days, according to the South African Survey 2010-2011. There has been a long history of government inaction regarding illegal strikes in the teaching sector, as witnessed yet again after the SADTU strikes in the Eastern Cape in the first school term of 2012. Whenever teachers are embroiled in strike action, it is the learners who suffer most.
The DA will be submitting a Private Members Bill to Parliament which seeks to comprehensively define the limits under which teachers can go on strike, and protect children's right to learn.
International consensus on this issue began to shift when the International Labour Organisation recommended a Minimum Service profession approach to teaching. This means that a minimum core staff would continue providing teaching services while strike action takes place. This should be kept in mind when drawing up an equitable labour regime for the education sector in South Africa.
It is essential that we find common ground and pragmatic solutions that respect our shared desire for quality learning and teaching environments.
Annette Lovemore, Shadow Minister of Basic Education