Taking training back to the workplace

Delegates at Numsa’s February training conference were honest about problems faced with regard to training. They proposed resolutions to resolve these problems.

Shop stewards must now take these resolutions just adopted by the National Bargaining Conference and the Central Committee (see box) and implement them at their workplaces.

Key amongst these is a commitment to make sure that skills development tops the agenda.

Training demands endorsed by NBC

At the workplace:

Establish training committee in all plants
negotiate work-place skills plans;
RPL all our workforce across all sectors against available qualifications;
Compulsory ABET during working hours
Remove educational level as an entry requirement for training
Training should take place during working hours
progression target and skills audit at workplaces.
Re-train retrenched members;
training of assessors, mentors and moderators of our own in all workplaces;
affirmative action candidate to be prioritised when dealing with Employment Equity.

At central level

Negotiate training demands at bargaining forums
Training reps in SETA must implement collective bargaining agreements;
training of MIC welders to take up jobs in SASOL with immediate effect.
Future job prospects to be communicated first to bargaining councils;
accelerate conversion of old trades to learnerships.
accelerate development of higher qualification i.e. from level 1 to the highest level of qualification
accelerate curriculum and courseware development.
Negotiate for allowance paid to an apprentice and someone in a learnership to be equal
incentive to employers for employing an apprenticeship should be equal to that of a learnership
Employers to commit themselves to train and equip workers, to comply with the relevant Acts.
Portable training across all sectors
Link grades to NQF Levels.

“Training is not an end but a means to an end,” says training coordinator, Malebo Mogopodi. In these times of high unemployment, employment security is not guaranteed, and if you lose your job, having some training increases your “chances of employment and other opportunities.”

Shop stewards must also try to ensure that learnerships are provided for the unemployed as well as those inside the plant.

Where workplaces have unemployed learners, shop stewards should attempt to improve the minimal allowance of R120 per week. Already some shop stewards have negotiated for better rates. At Toyota , unemployed learners must be paid R250 per week. Likewise Ford has negotiated for a weekly allowance of R232.60 and GMSA R140.

Another important job of the shop stewards is to ensure that the skills that workers have learnt on the job are recognised. Numsa’s own president, Mtutuzeli Tom, “was RPLed, gaps were found, he was then put on training and has now moved to a higher skill level,” says Mogopodi.

Numsa at a national level will also increase pressure for the conversion of the old trade system into learnerships and try to improve the link between the industry’s requirements for skills and the ability of unemployed workers to provide those skills.


Numsa – close the gap

While we were putting our ears to the ground, this is what we picked up from workers around the Skills Development Act and Employment Equity Act.

Nothing is happening in their respective companies. They are called in by management to sign a document which they do not understand. There is no training taking place except HIV/Aids awareness, forklift driving, fire-fighting. There is no skills programme in place.

We should make an audit to see how many Numsa-organised companies are embarking on skills programmes. If we did, we would find that only 50 out of 200 Numsa-organised companies are engaged in skills programmes.

The minister of labour when addressing Numsa’s 7 th National Congress last year, said, “I’m not workers’ shop steward,” and he further said, “I don’t remember one day hearing that workers were striking over training issues so that I can intervene.”

The tough battle ahead is how do we make sure that all our shop stewards understand issues like the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels, the impact of signing a workplace skills plan without the workers understanding it, closing the gap between the Merseta process and workers on the ground.

The employers are more familiar with the process through their websites. What about poor shop stewards without any access to the website? They will remain uninformed.

Numsa internally must educate our members on how to implement NQF levels as well as on adult basic education and training, recognition of prior learning, learnership programmes, skills programmes, trade training.

Through our structures we can report to members but the question which we must ask ourselves is – are we taking this to workers who are well-informed or not?

It’s high time that we ensure that our national union uses all its resources to close this gap in order to ensure the skills development revolution.

If we fail to close this gap, employers will continue to claim the grants at the expense of Numsa members without quality training taking place in different companies.

Ke nako shop stewards, workers to stand up and fight for you to be skilled!

Peter Thobejane Ekurhuleni