Cape Town – The DA wants school principals to be declared an essential service.
On Thursday morning, DA MPs Ian Ollis and Nomsa Marchesi addressed the media on their plans to ensure the safety of school pupils during strikes.
Ollis said strikes by teachers and other employees in the education sector had compromised children’s constitutionally enshrined rights to safety, health and education.
“While the DA supports the right of individuals to protest, it must not be at the expense of the safety, health and other rights of children,” said Ollis.
He said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had determined that it was reasonable to limit the right of certain education sector employees to strike, and that the DA agreed that this limitation was needed, “given that our children are forced to suffer as a result of strike action by educator sector employees”.
According to the ILO, there are two instances in which the right to strike might be restricted. The right to strike may be restricted or prohibited – “in the public service only for public servants exercising authority in the name of the State; or in essential services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population”.
Ollis said South Africa was a member state of the ILO and a signatory to the organisation’s relevant conventions on labour law.
To this end, the DA said it would meet with the Essential Services Committee of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on October 9 to request that they conduct a study on the posts of principals being considered essential services, as they were empowered by the Labour Relations Act to make this a reality.
The DA proposes that principals and deputy principals, cleaning staff, and staff providing food to school pupils, be declared essential.
“We didn’t suck out of our thumbs about who we would like to be mean to today,” he said, reiterating that this would be in line with the ILO’s precedents.
Marchesi added that, even though it was not one of the ILO requirements, she would like the Essential Services Committee to also look at pupil transport.
The Basic Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.