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  • Die Taalsekretariaat
  • Doelstelling
  • PANSAT se maatstawwe vir die evaluering van werkgewers se taalbeleid

    Me C Roodt

    INHOUD / CONTENTS

    1. Tipiese benaderingswyses tot veeltaligheid / Typical approaches towards multilingualism
    2. Grondwetlike taalbeleidsnorme / Constitutional language policy norms
    3. BreŽ doelstellings van Pansat / Broad objectives of Pansalb
    4. Raadsbesluite / Board findings

    INLEIDING

    Die werkgewers wat vandag hier teenwoordig of verteenwoordig is, het almal ten minste twee dinge gemeen:

    • hul werksmense is verteenwoordigend van diverse sosio-kulturele gemeenskappe en reflekteer groot taaldiversiteit;
    • hul bestuurders het al meer as een keer gewonder of dit hoegenaamd realisties is om te dink dat enige taalbeleid al sy werksmense en kliŽnte tevrede kan stel.

    Die werkgewers wat bewus is van die Pan-Suid-Afrikaanse Taalraad (PANSAT), moes ook al gewonder het hoe om veeltaligheid te bevorder op wyses wat met effektiewe produksie en dienslewering versoenbaar is. Ander dink nie langs hierdie weŽ nie en herinner aan die aanhaling oor ’n maatskappy wat verklaar het: “We know that this company has communication problems. We are not going to discuss this with employees.”

    PANSAT se beslissings het al stadsrade, staatsdepartemente en semi-staatsinstellings geraak. Hierdie soort beslissings oor sogenaamde skendings van taalregte word van tyd tot tyd in die Staatskoerant gepubliseer. Daar is ’n paar van die uitsprake wat oor die afgelope maande gelewer is wat van spesifieke belang is vanuit die werkgewer en werknemer se onderskeie perspektiewe. Hierdie voorbeelde het te make met Suid-Afrikaanse werkgewers wat geneig is om die oplossing te soek in ’n beleid wat teen alle amptelike tale behalwe Engels in gelyke mate diskrimineer.

    Ek bespreek die maatstawwe vir taalbeleid wat uit hierdie beslissings blyk aan die hand van:

    • die Grondwetlike taalbeleidsnorme;
    • PANSAT se breŽ doelstellings; en
    • PANSAT se beslissings en aanbevelings oor sogenaamde skendings van taalregte in gevalle soos:

      • Anoniem vs. Departement van Openbare Werke;
      • Rautenbach vs. Spoornet;
      • Breytenbach vs. Armscor; en
      • MWU vs. Telkom.

    Tot dusver het die Raad die geleentheid gehad om aspekte te beoordeel soos werknemer-kliŽnt-kommunikasie, opleiding, algemene werksomgewing vir werkers uit uiteenlopende taalgemeenskappe, taal wat gebruik word in vergaderings en vir korrespondensie, ens. Van die klagtes is deur werknemerorganisasies, oftewel vakbonde, aanhangig gemaak. Geen skriftelike klagte is tot dusver teen ’n vakbond ontvang nie.

    In wat volg, sal ek die Grondwetlike taalbeleidsnorme identifiseer en behandel, asook iets sÍ oor hoe die Raad die samehang tussen die norme en die praktiese oorwegings (waarna Artikel 6 van die Grondwet verwys) beskou. Wat die PANSAT-wet betref, is dit nodig om te beklemtoon dat dit PANSAT se doelstelling is om omstandighede te skep vir ontwikkeling en bevordering van die gelyke gebruik van al die amptelike tale. PANSAT moet ook toesien dat funksies wat ’n taal reeds verwerf het nie afgeskaal word nie, en moet verhinder dat taal gebruik word as instrument van onderdrukking of vervreemding. PANSAT mag studie-ondersoeke en navorsing vir bogenoemde doelstellings identifiseer, onder andere ten opsigte van die nie-afskaling van regte ten aansien van taal en die status van taal. PANSAT moet ook advies gee oor die koŲrdinasie van taalbeplanning.

    1. TIPIESE BENADERINGSWYSES TOT VEELTALIGHEID

    Onder die klagtes oor taalbeleid wat PANSAT bereik en die ondersoeke wat PANSAT onderneem, vind ons dikwels dat werkgewers wegskram van veeltaligheid en ’n eentalige beleid propageer. Elke werkgewer sal waarskynlik met ’n ander regverdiging vorendag kom, maar behalwe vir die bestuur se gemaksug blyk die opvatting te wees dat die gebruik van Engels “die enigste redelike moontlikheid” vir Suid-Afrika is, want “almal verstaan dit tog” en dit is “goedkoper” so.

    Die opvatting is ook dat vir ’n taalbeleid om aanvaarbaar te wees, moet dit teen alle amptelike tale (behalwe Engels) in gelyke mate diskrimineer. Armscor en Spoornet was tipiese gevalle hiervan. Die SA Instituut vir Geoktrooieerde Rekenmeesters maak op hul webblad (wat ’n opname maak van die sentimente rondom ’n eentalige benadering) ook van hierdie argument melding. Hierdie argument sÍ in wese dat dit die beste is om alle taalgebruikers (behalwe Engelssprekendes) ten minste gelyk te benadeel.

    In breŽ trekke kom PANSAT die volgende benaderingswyses teŽ:

    I Die “Kits”-benadering

    Die keuse van een taal vir alle funksies en situasies, en geen onderskeid word getref tussen interne en eksterne kommunikasie nie.

    Die eentalige moontlikheid is gewoon ongrondwetlik.

    II Die “Babel”-benadering

    Die keuse om alle tale in die werkplek in te voer. Dis volledig in ooreenstemming met die veeltaligheidsbeleid, maar kan ’n Babelse verwarring veroorsaak as die infrastruktuur van die werkplek nie opgewasse is vir 11 tale nie. KliŽnte het hul eie voorkeure, en interne kommunikasie vind nie in ’n vakuum plaas nie.

    Eintlik is ’n infrastruktuur soos diť van die Europese Parlement nodig om hierdie benadering in stand te hou. Omdat dit soveel hulpbronne verg, val die instansie gewoonlik maar weer op ’n afgewaterde benadering terug.

    III Die “Vorige bestel”-benadering

    Die keuse om Engels en Afrikaans te behou.

    Hierdie benadering verskil nie van wat die apartheidsjare in die praktyk opgelewer het nie.

    IV Die “PANSAT”-benadering

    Volgens PANSAT is die enigste werkbare benadering een wat buigsaam en “oop” is en van sensitiwiteit spreek. Die instansie moet bereid wees om ’n proses te deurloop. Daar word hoofsaaklik gewerk met die taal van voorkeur, binne die grense van wat ’n taalplan en taalondersoek bied. Uiteindelik moet die beleid taal as reg erken en as hulpbron ontgin. Die taalondersoek identifiseer onder meer moontlike taalfunksies binne die bedryf en bekyk die taalmoontlikhede.

    Dit veronderstel dus ’n realistiese proses wat steun op:

    • raadpleging;
    • rasionele afleidings uit die konsultasieproses;
    • kreatiwiteit;
    • bereidwilligheid om die geldigheid van die afleidings te toets aan die praktyk; en
    • bereidwilligheid om met verloop van tyd wysigings of verfynings aan die beleid aan te bring.

    Later meer hieroor.

    Die Grondwet noem ’n aantal praktiese oorwegings soos gebruik, praktyk, koste, streeksomstandighede en die balans van die behoeftes en voorkeure van die gemeenskap in sy geheel. In sy monitering van taalbeleid en taalpraktyk moet PANSAT dikwels diepgesetelde houdings konfronteer dat koste of administratiewe las regverdiging bied om nie taalvoorkeure in ag te neem nie. Die Raad se siening is oor die algemeen dat, hoewel koste een van die faktore is wat in ag geneem moet word, dit oorweeg moet word binne die konteks van die Grondwet se hoofdoel, naamlik om veeltaligheid te bevorder. Koste kan nie voorgehou word op ’n wyse wat die basiese taaldoelstelling van die Grondwet verydel nie. Die potensiŽle negatiewe uitwerking wat koste en administratiewe oorwegings op veeltaligheid het, mag nie verhef word tot die status van ’n norm op dieselfde vlak as die taalbeleidsnorme van die Grondwet nie.


    2. CONSTITUTIONAL LANGUAGE POLICY NORMS

    All Board findings concerning language rights cases refer to the language clause in the Constitution. The Constitution could have subscribed to national monoculturalism and monolingualism. However, the negotiators opted instead for a policy of multilingualism, which implies and requires sensitivity for the diversity in respect of languages and cultures. The Constitution is the “Grundnorm” or the highest norm, which is the source of legitimacy for other rules that derive from it. According to the Constitution, the state must:

    • use at least two languages (section 6(3));
    • accord the official languages parity of esteem and equitable treatment (section 6(4)); and
    • elevate the status and advance the use of historically diminished languages (section 6(2)).

    These policy norms are equally applicable to private sector employers, who are supposed to take what is good from the language practices of organs of state. Organs of state must set an example, simply because citizens have no choice but to utilise the state for certain services. A different dynamic is present regarding the enforcement of Board decisions.

    Having several official languages, the actual status of different official languages is determined by subsequent legislation and practice. Also, the exact scope of the right to use an official language may be subject to limitations.

    3. BROAD OBJECTIVES OF PANSALB

    In the area of language, the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) was established as a constitutional institution and a statutory body in terms of the Pan South African Language Board Act, 1995. While not listed in chapter 9, it features prominently in the very first Chapter of the Constitution. Parliament established PANSALB as a regulatory agency to carry out the constitutional mandate on language. More particularly, PANSALB must implement the binding constitutional directive to promote multilingualism, foster parity of esteem and equitable treatment of all the official languages, and foster respect for those languages used without official status in the Republic. In 1999 amending legislation brought PANSALB into line with the final Constitution and in particular with section 6.

    The Board has a clear monitoring role. It may monitor:

    • the observance of any advice given to an organ of state;
    • applicable standards determined by the Board in respect of language facilitation services;
    • observance of constitutional provisions regarding the use of language;
    • the contents and observance of existing and new legislation, practice and policy dealing directly and indirectly with language matters at any level of government.

    Up until now, there was no language legislation to be used by PANSALB as a benchmark. At least the Language Policy and Plan for South Africa (dated 5 July 2000) now offers some hope of such a benchmark being established. However, the model it proposes is a complicated one, which may offer severe difficulty in the implementation phase.

    In terms of its Act, PANSALB is supposed to oversee the formation and establishment of provincial language committees (PLCs) and national language bodies (NLBs). The PLCs must act as links among the different spheres of government in language matters and will have to play a key role in ensuring the implementation of the proposed language plan and policy. PANSALB is also in the process of establishing national language bodies (NLBs) where the need exists. Private business needs to be aware of the existence of, primarily, the PLCs, whose advisory role may encompass aspects of workplace language policy. PANSALB is furthermore charged by its Act to establish national lexicography units for each of the official languages as section 21 companies, and to develop dictionaries for all official languages.

    A linguistic community is free to choose to protect its language through the complaints system of PANSALB. While the measure of historical disadvantage or privilege of a language is an important factor in the Board’s overall planning, investigations into complaints are mostly done on a reactionary basis. Nonetheless, the outcomes are utilised to inform the policy development process. The Board considers language statistics and geographical linguistic representation in its decisions regarding language rights violations.

    Broadly speaking, the requirements that have played a role in the thinking of the Board are the following:

    • a language survey, or some proof that the employer conducted a study to find out the preferences and language competency levels of employees;
    • consultation with employees, consultation with PANSALB if assistance is required, and consultation with the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) where terminology may be needed;
    • regular language planning that is somehow based on or related to the findings of the survey; and
    • a positive attitude. As indicated before, a willingness to learn and experiment is highly appropriate, since multilingualism is not an easy option.

    The Board regards it as feasible for every institution to start the process of language planning. This does not imply that all official languages are to be used in all functions and at all times. It does mean that institutions have to move away from rigid language policies that prescribe monolingualism, to accord a meaningful space to the disadvantaged languages.

    4. BOARD FINDINGS

    I have selected a number of findings to give you a sense of how the Board judges workplace language policies. In all of these cases, the Board ruled that the institution against whom the complaint was lodged, has violated the language rights of its employees, the employee concerned or the speakers of languages other than English.

    1. CARSTENS vs. SA POST OFFICE

    Professor Carstens lodged a complaint stating that the South African Post Office contravened the provisions of section 6 of the Constitution Act, 1996, by introducing a language policy which states, among other things, that all formal business within the South African Post Office shall be conducted in English only.

    The Board found that the Post Office’s language policy ignores the Constitutional objective to elevate the status and advance the use of official languages, particularly the historically diminished, indigenous official languages.

    The Board recommended that the South African Post Office must amend its language policy so as to make it more flexible and accommodating of the multilingual objective of the Constitution and the Pan South African Language Board Act, 1995. The Board also recommended that the employees of the South African Post Office be involved in a process of consultation when drawing up its language policy.

    2. RAUTENBACH vs. SPOORNET

    Mr Rautenbach submitted a complaint to the effect that Spoornet issued him with a language order to use English for purposes of internal as well as external communication, and more particularly, to communicate in English with all clients and employees of Spoornet, despite its policy that Spoornet employees must change to the language of the customer in business documents.

    In this case, the complainant was subjected to disciplinary action for insubordination when he refused to comply with the order. The complainant further alleged that the language order caused or contributed to his resignation, which constituted constructive dismissal according to arbitration proceedings at the time. Mr Rautenbach applied for financial compensation by the Board for his alleged mental and physical suffering on account of the company order.

    The Board decided that Spoornet’s language policy and practice in this instance was unconstitutional and violated the language rights of the complainant, and that no institution is allowed to restrict the use of a language between users of the same language. Consequently, Afrikaans-speaking employees of Spoornet are entitled to use their language in their dealings with private Afrikaans firms and other Afrikaans-speaking employees and Afrikaans-speaking contact personnel at any other institution or firm.

    The onus rests on the employer(s) to arrange for translation or interpreting of the communications between employees if the language policy requires the use of a different language with regard to external communication.

    It became clear from this finding that the Board does not wish to take any position on labour matters as such, but prefers to limit its involvement to aspects of language policy and use.

    3. ANONYMOUS vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

    The Board received a complaint from the MWU to the effect that the Department of Public Works phased out the use of Afrikaans for all formal purposes, scaled down the rights of Afrikaans-speaking employees as they existed at 27 April 1994, and provided a more favourable working environment for English-speaking employees compared to other employees.

    In fact, the Director-General at the time had taken the following decisions in the course of 1995:

    1. that English will be the only official medium of communication internally as well as externally;
    2. that all non-English-speaking personnel must improve their command of the English language; and
    3. that all documentation, including drawings, specifications, contract documents, etc. may be issued in English only.

    The Board interpreted these orders as effectively:

    1. excluding the use of Afrikaans as a matter of course, contrary to the relevant sections in the Interim Constitution and the Constitution, 1996;
    2. regarding multilingualism as the ability of speakers of indigenous languages to use English, and not the ability of speakers of English to use other languages;
    3. basing his policy on the (erroneous) view that the use of a variety of languages impedes the delivery process to the general public;
    4. enhancing the status of English while diminishing the status of the other official languages.

    The Board found that the Department of Public Works failed to take steps to ascertain what the preferences of personnel are. In order to foster compliance with the language policy norms contained in the Constitution, 1996, the Board recommended that the Department of Public Works:

    1. revoke the instructions issued to employees that are contrary to the guiding principles contained in the Constitution, 1996;
    2. after having studied the language preferences of personnel and clients by means of a survey, draw up a policy:

      1. that provides for the equivalent and unrestricted use of at least two official languages;
      2. that refrains from excluding the use of any language as a matter of course;
      3. that does not contain discriminatory elements;
      4. that refrains from diminishing the rights and the status of Afrikaans; and
      5. that will further efficiency of service-delivery and the preferences of clients and personnel.

    The Board recommended that the Department finalise the policy after having consulted the Board and refrain from intimidation of employees on the basis of their language preference.

    4. VARIOUS vs. COMPENSATION COMMISSIONER

    A large number of complaints from individuals, organisations and businesses were submitted (and are still being submitted) concerning the language policy and practices of the Office of the Compensation Commissioner. The Compensation Commissioner is training staff to use and assist the public in English only, and is making available only English forms to the public. One of the complainants made the point that knowledge of the language used by the client is not a prerequisite for an employee of the Office of the Compensation Commissioner to be able to process a return of earnings form.

    The Board determined that personnel be trained to enable them to serve the public in more than one official language. The Board recommended to the Compensation Commissioner to align its language policy and practice with constitutional requirements in consultation with the Board and the Department of Arts, Science, Language and Technology.

    5. BREYTENBACH vs. ARMSCOR

    Mr Breytenbach submitted a complaint to the Board to the effect that the Chief Executive Officer of Armscor and the Management Board of Armscor adopted a language policy for Armscor in terms of which English is the language of communication in Armscor. The complainant felt that the policy:

    1. violated his language rights in terms of section 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996;
    2. diminished the rights relating to Afrikaans and the status of Afrikaans as it existed before 27 April 1994; and
    3. violated section 31(1) of the Bill of Rights, to the effect that persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language with other members of that community.

    The actual provisions of the language policy of Armscor stipulated:

    1. that all meetings in which more that one language speaker is present must be conducted in English;
    2. that minutes of all meetings must be written and kept in English;
    3. that official documents must be written and kept in English;
    4. that official personnel notices or documents will be written in English except in special circumstances of a personal nature, such as grievance and disciplinary hearings;
    5. that all correspondence emanating from Armscor must be in English.

    Policy guidelines were to the effect that the use of a language common to the parties was allowed only in special circumstances of a personal nature and in informal communication between individuals.

    The Board decided that the language policy of Armscor was unnecessarily rigid and prescriptive, did not comply with the language policy norms outlined in the Constitution Act, 1996, and conflicted with the objectives of the Board as set out in section 3 of the Pan South African Language Board Act, 1995.

    The Board added that the directives contained in section 6 of the Constitution Act, 1996, do not create the expectation that all of the 11 official languages, irrespective of language preferences and demographics of employees and clients, must be used in respect of all functions, as put forward by Armscor. Furthermore, that no institution may restrict the use of an official language between users of that same language in the name of fostering “effective communication”.

    The Board determined that a review of the language policy of Armscor was necessary. It had to reflect greater flexibility by:

    1. taking into account the language preferences of Armscor employees and Armscor clients; and
    2. distinguishing cases in which it is imperative to use English, and cases in which it is optional.

    The Board determined that the policy:

    1. in respect of meetings, must leave room for the chairperson of a meeting to consider the language proficiency of members of a meeting and to determine language use in that meeting;
    2. in respect of minutes of meetings, must leave room for the minutes of a meeting to be kept in the language in which the meeting was conducted and in which contributions were made, unless the minutes are compiled for the benefit of a person or institution that is not proficient in that language;
    3. in respect of official documents, must allow preparation and submission of official business documents in any official language. If Armscor requires English translations thereof, Armscor must make the arrangements and carry the reasonable costs involved;
    4. in respect of official personnel notices and documents, may not prohibit or prevent employees from publishing notices in any official language and must oblige Armscor to provide translations of notices and documents upon request;
    5. in respect of correspondence, must take into consideration the language requirements of the target recipient of a communication;
    6. must allow employees to use their preferred language for purposes of personnel evaluation and provide interpreting services where the supervisor is not proficient in that language;
    7. provide for the translation of performance contracts and other personnel documents and records into the preferred language of employees.

    The Board determined that Armscor should consult the Board before adopting the final draft of the language policy, and that the policy be reviewed at regular intervals as decided on by the Management Board of Armscor.

    6. MWU & SACU vs. TELKOM

    The Board received a complaint from the Mineworkers’ Union and from the South African Communications Union to the effect that the language practices of Telkom, adopted on the basis of its monolingual language policy introduced in 1997, violate the language rights of employees of Telkom. The Board found

    1. in respect of internal communication:

      1. that Telkom’s language policy designates English as the only language of communication and as the only official business language within the company;
      2. that all reports, publications, personnel communications, disciplinary hearings and meetings are printed or conducted in English only;
      3. that Telkom employees bear the responsibility of providing the minutes of meetings and other documents in English;
      4. that all contracts with employees are drawn up exclusively in English regardless of the parties or the purpose of the contract;
      5. that Telkom conducts training exclusively in English;
      6. that Telkom, on the basis of the argument that translations may lead to error or loss of meaning, fails to make available translators and interpreters for purposes of performance measurement of employees.

    2. that language practices based on this policy have potentially far-reaching consequences for employees, which may include financial loss if performance measurement is conducted solely in English.

    The Board decided that the language policy and practice of Telkom was contrary to the policy of multilingualism contained in the Constitution, failed to honour the spirit of the language clause, and violated the language rights of Telkom employees. Reasonableness was not seen to lie in adopting a monolingual policy, but for Telkom to take their language preferences into account. The decision stated further that it was unreasonable for Telkom to expect its employees to undertake or pay for the translation of letters to Telkom clients.

    The Board instructed Telkom to conduct a survey to establish the language preferences of employees beyond any doubt, and to revise its policy to take the language preferences of Telkom employees into account.

    CONCLUSION

    As soon as the employer knows communication is a problem in the business, time should go into a survey among employees on language abilities, needs and preferences. While this seems entirely obvious, some employers choose to ignore language complaints and fail to implement sensitive policies. They also fail to realise that the core manifestation of any person’s culture is to be found in his or her language.

    PANSALB’s remedy is a simple and basic one. Employers should make tangible their respect for the languages of the workforce. This should be evident from:

    • the approach to training, which is such a fundamental part of the development of employees and development of their career paths;
    • disciplinary hearings;
    • internal communication policy, and to an extent external communication policy as well.

    Efforts to accommodate employees in these areas, and treating every language with the courtesy and respect it deserves, could go a long way to fostering a harmonious working environment. PANSALB appeals to you to help democracy along in South Africa by starting the process of formulating a flexible and non-discriminatory language policy concerning the preferred workplace language sooner rather than later.

    boontoe


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