Perpetuating Social Injustice Through Neglecting the Voices of the Non-Unionized Teachers: An Analysis From the Rawlsian Perspective

Perpetuating Social Injustice Through Neglecting the Voices of the Non-Unionized Teachers: An Analysis From the Rawlsian Perspective

Shuti Steph Khumalo (University of South Africa, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9108-5.ch015
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The democratic dispensation elevated teacher trade unionism to unparalleled and unprecedented levels in the South African education system. The education laws of South Africa recognize teacher unions which meet the South African labor-related requirements. The three powerful teacher unions that recognize and represent thousands of teachers are the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), and the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU). These recognized teacher unions represent their members in decision making processes and not teachers who are non-union members. This chapter is based on an in-depth evaluation of extant literature, and further, it is interpretive in approach and employs social justice as the theoretical and conceptual framework.
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South Africans experienced brutal episodes of oppression, segregation and apartheid. One of the most cruel and barbaric former government tactic was to supress the rights of workers. The government unfairly treated other races and nationalities. The racial segregation found blacks in particular excluded from most of the privileges afforded to other races particularly white South Africans. This segregation affected public institutions and schools were not excluded from these injustices (Thobejane, 2013, Steyn, n.d). As result of these events, teachers felt it necessary to organise themselves and this culminated in the formation of teachers’ trade unions. The Apartheid government tried to resist the formation and most teachers were arrested and some dismissed from their jobs. The brutal response of the apartheid government slowed down teacher activism and organised labour (Hyslop, n.d).

When South Africa became the democratic state in 1994, a new constitution was adopted and organised labour was recognised and trade unionism gained a lot of traction. The following major teacher unions were formed and legally recognised teacher unions, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) and the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) (Uys, 2011). These three unions are the biggest role players in the education sector and largely influence decision making. The most militant and biggest in terms of membership and politically strong union is SADTU.

The democratic transformation that engulfed South Africa impacted on the way business was conducted in the education system and schools in particular. This era was characterised by multiple changes in labour laws and the way decision making in the education system is processed. Bernhard (2006) views decision making as the process through which individuals, groups or teams arrive at implementable outcomes from a range of competing choices about issues in their organisations. The democratic epoch represented a departure from the way decision making was conducted in the government circles particularly in the education system which was largely characterised by top-down decision making approach (Department of Education, 1996). This top down approach in decision making was dominant in the government including the education system (Williams, 2011). As a result of this culture, schools were also affected in terms of how decision were arrived at. Hallinger (2004) argues that even in schools, the traditionally way of decision making was from top to down because principals just gave commands in staff meetings. The entire education leadership employed the militaristic leadership style and expected their words to be followed.

The role players in the education system, particularly teachers through various platforms such as recognised teachers’ unions, from time to time consult on major issues that affect the running and the operation of the education system. The purpose of the introduction of the Labour Relations Act of 1996 was to ensure that employees and employers engage in matters of mutual interest (Republic of South Africa, 1996b). These labour relations laws provide role players with opportunities to engage in negotiations through bargaining councils (Republic of South Africa, 2005). These are statutory structures established to enhance relations between the employer and the employees. Only recognised and registered teacher unions are afforded opportunities to engage in issues of mutual interest in the education system. At the school level, teachers through their local union structures such as site based committees (for SADTU) have and claim the right to be heard and represented on all matters affecting their members. Teacher unions do have bilateral with the employer in all levels from the school level to the national level.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Shared Decision Making: This is a process whereby all members of the organization including principals and teachers are given opportunities to participate in decision making processes of the schools that they are employed in.

Bill of Rights: The Bill of Rights is part of the constitution of the Republic of South African and explores issues such as the rights of citizens, matters related to equity, human dignity, freedoms such as freedom of security, freedom of religion, belief and opinion, expression, association, movement, etc.

Social Justice: Social justice refers to a process where members of the organization such as the school have the right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights. Social justice does not promote prejudice, discrimination based on gender, affiliation to trade unionism but is founded on principles of democracy and inclusion.

School: A school is any organization that is established with a main purpose of providing instruction to learners and in this case from the foundation phase to until senior phase (Grade R – Grade 12).

Teacher Unions: A teacher union is an organization of teaching professionals who work to protect their rights and interests of their members.

Labor Relations: This term simply engages the rule of the game in the work place between the employees and the employer. This labor relations system represents the interaction between the employer and trade unions and employees.

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