What is happening in the industry?

June 1st, 2012, Published in Articles: Vector

So much is happening in the electrical contracting industry that it is important that I try and keep members up to date. In the March issue of Vector I explained at some length what was taking place on a number of fronts, and in the April issue there was a report on the press conference we held in Johannesburg on 15 March at which our president, Mark Mfikoe, was very critical about how the energy and construction SETAs have bungled training in the Industry. So, what are the latest developments?

Training

In my article in the March issue I gave details about the failure of both the Energy and Water SETA (EWSETA) and the Construction SETA (CETA) in showing any interest in training in our industry. This, of course, led to a very serious skills shortage because electrical contractors lost faith in the system and were no longer engaging apprentices or upgrading their employees.

Despite meetings with the Department of Higher Education and Training and the two SETAs, the problems were still not addressed, so we decided that we had no alternative but to convene a press conference so that we could tell everybody what was going on, and what Mark Mfikoe described as “the biggest scandal in the country”. The conference was very well-attended by reporters from newspapers and various industrial journals, and the subsequent publicity that was given was better than anything we could have imagined.

What was the scandal all about?

Since June 2011,100 apprenticeship contracts had been sent to the CETA for registration and, despite the 21-day period within which they must be signed, only 15 had been signed and returned.

Over 130 applications for trade test certificates had been forwarded to the CETA, which included apprentices who had undertaken the trade test as long ago as April 2011, but none had been issued causing serious prejudice to those affected.

There was no administration of the training by the CETA, such as arranging courses, booking trade tests, arranging for trade test assessors and moderators.

The accreditation of a number of training centres had not been renewed or extended, including the ECA(SA)’s training centres in Germiston and Cape Town, which could seriously prejudice the learners attending courses at such centres.

The EWSETA had failed to pay R750 000 in discretionary grants to employers who had engaged apprentices and been promised R7500 on commencement of the contracts and a further R15 000 on completion. Most had received the initial R7500 but not the balance.

The EWSETA had failed to pay trade test officials and, as a result, they lost interest and are now lost to the industry.

In addition to convening the press conference, the ECA(SA) instructed its attorney to write to the Minister of Higher Education and Training, informing him of what was taking place and requesting him to have all of the outstanding issues addressed or to face legal action. A total of four letters have now been sent to him informing him about what is taking place, and making suggestions on how the problems can be overcome.

I am very pleased to report that we have already had two very positive meetings with the CETA as a result of these actions. During the first of these, the administrator of the CETA said that, although initially angered by the adverse publicity, he considered the complaints and agreed that they were justified. He apologised profusely after considering the complaints and conceded that it was totally unacceptable that apprenticeship contracts had not been registered, and that so many trade test certificates were outstanding, affecting the livelihoods of those affected. He promised that all of the issues affecting the CETA would be resolved as soon as possible.

Since these meetings, training and trade test centres’ accreditations have been extended, and the majority of the outstanding contacts and trade test certificates have been issued. The balance will be signed and/or issued after certain queries have been addressed.

It was also agreed to establish a joint working committee between the ECA(SA) and the CETA to address the outstanding arrangements relating to the transfer of the electrical contracting industry, and to examine the skills needs and challenges. This will also include ensuring that all matters affecting this industry that were previously vested with the EWSETA are transferred to the CETA, such as qualifications, unit standards, skills programmes, trade test documentation, Section 28 criteria etc. It will also identify the needs of the electrical contacting industry and determine if any project proposals are needed to close any gaps in the provision of skills training, including uplifting business skills.

It was also agreed that we should sign a memorandum of understanding to regulate the partnership and the role of each party. However, it was suggested that the CETA should also establish whether there are any other stakeholders who should be involved as it should not be assumed that communication with the ECA(SA) covered the whole industry.

Finally, we tabled four special project proposals which the administrator will consider seriously. If they are approved, training will take off again in the industry but this, of course, will be depend upon whether employers are willing to participate. I hope that many of you will indeed be willing to participate because the future of the industry depends on properly trained electricians and other staff. You will all be kept fully informed regarding these developments.

Concerning the outstanding matters with the EWSETA, no response has been received so we are following this up with the minister.

Bargaining Council agreement

I haven’t much to tell you on this subject since my last report. The agreement, which expired on 31 December 2011, has still not been published. The Department of Labour is unhappy about the representative position of trade unions party to the council, but has recently undertaken its own audit into its membership. Depending on the outcome, the Minister of Labour will decide whether or not to publish the agreement. In the meantime, any wage increases you grant to your employees are entirely up to each of you. However, I am confident that, if you have granted wage increases to your employees, you will be able to “offset” them against any prescribed increases that are published in the Government Gazette. You will be informed immediately as soon as we have any definite news on this issue

Electrical Contracting Board

As I am sure you all know, the chief inspector of the Department of Labour has extended the contract of the ECB to register electrical contractors until 31 August 2012. Thereafter, the registration process is to be taken over by the Department of Labour. We have been provided with very little information on how this is to be done, but understand that it will be possible to register through any of its labour centres located in most cities and towns. In the meantime, all registrations done through the ECB will remain valid until the expiry date which is contained on your registration certificate. Members are also reminded that they will be assisted with their registrations through our regional offices. This does not apply to non-members.

Amendment No. 8 to SANS 10142-1

This amendment has been published and is now in effect. There are a lot of changes which will affect you all, so workshops are either currently being held or will be held soon in all of the regions to bring you up to date. The test report, which is part of the certificate of compliance, has also been changed. The ECA(SA) CoC/test report which we sell to our members has already been amended to include the changes. However, if you still have stock of the previous document as per Amendment No. 7 to the Code, you may continue to use it for a period of 12 months as of 1 April 2012.

Chris Greager, National Director: Operations

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