The ECA’s Pretoria office has been inundated with queries regarding the role and function of the bargaining council. I decided, therefore, that it was possibly time to clarify this question for all members.
The national bargaining council is a sector specific bargaining council created in terms of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA). The act provides that employer and employee representative organisations within an industry (in our case the electrical industry) may establish a bargaining council by adopting a constitution and obtaining registration through the Registrar of Labour Relations. The parties may then enter into collective agreements covering “any areas of mutual interest” and, provided they are sufficiently representative within the industry, the parties may request the Minister of Labour to extend the collective agreement to any non-parties that fall within the jurisdiction of the council.
The minister will extend the collective agreement if the union(s) membership constitute the majority of employees falling within the scope of the agreement; and the members of the employers’ organisation(s) employ the majority of employees falling within the council’s scope.
The collective agreement is negotiated between the parties on an annual basis and, once signed, is published in the Government Gazette to become effective from 1 February each year. Thereafter, all employers and employees engaged in the industry are required to comply with the terms of the collective agreement.
Although the NBCEI is a creature of statute, it is not sponsored by the state and it is funded through levies paid equally by employers and employees; by charging collection fees to the employers’ and employees’ organisations for collecting their subscriptions and or levies; and by charging an administration fee to the funds it operates for the benefit of the industry. The majority of the monies required are to maintain the operational infrastructure of the council, and to provide for complaint processing and assessment.
Powers and functions of the council
Possibly the most valuable aspect of the bargaining council system is that it creates a fair “playing field” for all employers and employees in the industry. Without it, chaos would reign because the employer who looks after the interests and welfare of his employees could be prejudiced when tendering for work against an employer who fails to comply with any labour legislation. The council system is not perfect, but it is certainly a lot better than what we would have if there was a “free for all” in the market place.
Andre Beytel, ECA Pretoria