The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is shocked to learn of the unprofessional, abusive employment relations at Damelin College and Central Education College (CTC). Both these private colleges are owned by the Education Investment Corporation Limited (Educor) group.
In a consultation meeting in which workers agreed to join a trade union affiliate organising in the sector, the testimonies of workers (mostly lecturers in different faculties based in the Braamfontein) shows that the private college is flagrantly disregarding the rights of workers.
The grievances by workers encompass a range of areas that include chronic late payment of salaries, unequal payment of workers for equal work done, unacceptable work overload, non-establishment of post levels and pay-grades leading to exploitation of some lecturers in doing Departmental Head work which they are not paid for, and an unprofessional handling of workers’ grievances, etc.
Late payment of wages
By the time we release this statement, some lecturers and other staff members will have not been paid their October 2023 salaries. That is 22 days into the next month, 8 days before they should be getting their November salaries. But these lecturers are not surprised as this is a usual practice by the Damelin College. Late payment is now a typical problem.
In the sister College, the Central Education College (CTC), campuses have been closed in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Workers were retrenched without proper consultation. These workers have not been paid their September and October 2023 salaries, despite being issued the pay slips for both months.
Fixed-term contracts vs permanent contracts
Most lecturers at Damelin College were employed permanently before Covid-19. During Covid-19, they were retrenched and immediately rehired, but this time on fixed-term contracts. These workers have been put on fixed-term contracts since late 2020.
This practice is in violation of section 198B of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) that provides for employees that are employed on fixed-term contracts to be deemed permanent if the contracts are extended longer than 3 months. Damelin College meets all conditions provided by the section for the clause to be applicable.
Despite the flagrant disregard of this provision by Damelin College, these workers are deemed permanent by the law. In this regard, we demand the immediate application of this law, and for the workers to be given permanent contracts retrospectively.
Fixed-term contracts are also used as weapons by the managers. The contracts of those workers who bravely dare to stand up for their rights are not renewed at the end of the term. This terrifies others, and whips them into line despite the violation of their rights.
Central Technical College has terminated its contracts with workers, effectively retrenching them without conducting a section 189 process. The workers were surprised by notices suddenly issued, that their campuses will be closed and with that, their employment contracts.
The workers’ grievances are handled with unprofessionalism and arrogance, especially at Braamfontein Campus. Each time they raise complaints about late payments and other grievances, they are told they can leave the company if they are not satisfied. These are tantrums only selfish children can throw!
This has led to a working culture where workers are not free to raise their dissatisfactions and grievances. Their wages have been stagnant since 2020, and some conditions have been introduced that potentially impose cuts on these wages. For instance, a quota of modules and classes has been introduced, below which if a lecturer teaches, they will have a pay cut effected. These measures are arbitrarily implemented without negotiating with workers, whilst simultaneously muzzling the workers from raising any grievances.
Tools of trade
The workers are not given (or compensated for) any tools of trade, including things as basic as textbooks. Only a limited number of textbooks are bought, and those lecturers who cannot get one must provide their own.
In addition, data and laptops are not provided by the employer. This despite the fact that no lecturers can function without a laptop. Even if classes are not online, a lecturer must prepare slides, notes and assessment programmes electronically. How do the managers of Damelin College and CTC expect their lecturers to do work without providing laptops!
Furthermore, some classes and tutoring of students have been moved online. But the colleges do not provide data to their lecturers. This is the highest level of incompetence on the management side.
Private sector does not equal efficiency
Demonstrated by Damelin College, CTC and other private sector companies, the private sector is not synonym of efficiency as is usually purported. The fanciness and professionalism of Damelin College’s website gives a wrong impression, that it is professional in its employment relations and service provision.
It is only logical to conclude that the students are suffering if Damelin is understaffed, not providing working equipment to its lecturers, and not paying the lecturers on time so that they can pay for their transport fare to work. It is therefore not uncommon for the Damelin students to arrive to class only to find out that their lecturers are not at work because they do not have money for a taxi fare, or to pitch to an online class, only to have their lecturers cut off in the middle of a lesson because their data was depleted.
SAFTU and the workers at Damelin and CTC demand:
|– The Damelin workers who are unpaid for October 2023 salaries to be paid.
– The CTC workers who are unpaid for their September and October 2023 salaries to be paid.
– For both workers to be paid any outstanding payments due to them that includes the money for extra classes that they lecture.
– For lecturers employed as Independent Contractors to be paid on time. Now, it is over 3 months without pay.
– Damelin workers be paid on time their November and December 2023 salaries
– The immediate application of section 198B ¾ changing the fixed-term contracts to permanent employment.
– Procurement of working tools for the staff including laptops, data and textbooks
– Hiring of more lecturing staff for a fair distribution of workloadStaff post level to be established alongside pay gradesProper mechanism for the handling of the grievances