Dialogue : ‘The Right to Strike and the Right to Education: Moving Forward’

Africa Unite peer educator, held an event on May 13 at the University of Cape Town to discuss the conflicting interests of the right to strike and the right to education. Both are essential to the bill of rights in South Africa and have become particularly relevant due to the recent strikes organized by SADTU (South African Democratic Teacher’s Union).

Invited was Professor Halton Cheadle to speak on the subject. Professor Cheadle is an experienced authority on the subject of labor laws in South Africa. A former trade unionist, he was general counsel to Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions)(1985-1994), special advisor to Tito Mboweni when he was Minister of Labor, convener of the LRA (Labor Relations Act) drafting team, Professor of Public Law UCT and a member of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Standards and Recommendations. And perhaps most relevant to the current issue, he assisted Jay Naidoo in facilitating the formation of SADTU and drafted its constitution.

The talk focused on the legal methods the government can use to end strikes, and the complicated issue of national legality vs. international legality. 21 students and Africa Unite Peer Educators attended the event, and following Professor Cheadle’s planned remarks, questioning went on for an hour. Some of the points discussed were: the political reasoning behind the approach the ANC has taken in an attempt to end the strike, at what point the right to strike conflicts with the right to education, specifically how long a gap in education would have to be in order to permanently affect a student’s education.

The dialogue concluded while the students had more questions and comments on the matter, however due to time and lectures, the dialogue had to end. Another follow up dialogue will be organised.

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