26 May

Most workers have heard of the term of bargaining council or are aware of the various bargaining councils they belong to as part of the industries/sectors they work in but, what is a bargaining council and what does it do?

UASA in today’s blog will be addressing this question and proving a summary of the responsibilities of a bargaining council 

What is a bargaining council?

Bargaining councils are established when employer and workers bodies such as unions, in a particular industrial sector, and geographical area agree to come together to engage in collective bargaining. The employer associations and unions that agree to do so are referred to as ‘parties’ to the bargaining council and constitute the bargaining partners once the council is established. 

In order to be registered for these purposes by the Department of Labour, the parties must prove that they are sufficiently ‘representative’. In particular, they must prove that the unions proposed as a party to the council have more than 50% of employees in the specified sector as members.

Why is there a need for the BC?

There was a need from employers and employees for a legislative framework for collective bargaining. It was decided that a system of National Industrial Councils would provide regulation of employers, employees, and their various collectives, trade unions and employers’ organisations in the various industrial section, resulting in the creation of bargaining councils. 

Before we look at the roles and responsibilities of a bargaining council, it is important to briefly explain another important term; Collective Agreement.

Collective agreement

A collective agreement means a written agreement concerning terms and conditions of employment or any other matter of mutual interest concluded by one or more registered trade unions and: 

  • One or more employers
  • One or more registered employers’ organisation
  • One or more employers and one or more registered employers’ organisation

In other words, collective bargaining is the process through which a union tries to get an employer to formally agree and accept the workplace demands that workers put forward.

Any collective agreement which is reached in a bargaining council is binding on the members of the council. The council may ask the Minister of Labour and Employment to extend a collective agreement to all parties which fall within the registered scope of the council, whether they are members or not.

Roles and responsibilities of a bargaining council:

  • Concluding and enforcing collective agreements about terms and conditions of employment or other matters of mutual interest.
  • Preventing and resolving disputes at work and establishing and administering funds for resolving such labour disputes
  • Promoting and establishing training and education schemes and establishing and administering funds for this purpose
  • Establishing and administering pension, provident, medical aid, sick pay, holiday, unemployment and similar schemes or funds for the benefit of one or more of the parties to the council or their members
  • Developing proposals for submission to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) or other forums on policy and legislation that may affect the sector and area covered by the council
  • Determining by collective agreement what may not constitute legitimate grievances for strikes or lock-out in the area or sector within its registered scope.

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