In a pivotal ruling on 25 August 2023, the Constitutional Court dismissed the leave to appeal sought by NEASA and SAEFA. This follows the rejection of their previous appeals by both the Labour Court and the Labour Appeals Court. The issue at hand was NEASA’s challenge against the decision of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) to extend the Main Collective Agreement to non-parties from June 2022.

This landmark decision reinforces the principle of collective bargaining, a cornerstone of South African labour relations. It not only heralds a victory for CEO and its members but is also a testament to the industry’s collective resolve.

The judgment speaks to the importance of the harmonisation between organised labour and employers. Despite differing perspectives and demands from various stakeholders, it’s evident that an equilibrium can be found that addresses the socio-economic needs of employees while also acknowledging the intricacies of businesses. This cooperative spirit further aids in propelling the industry forward, benefiting everyone involved.

This staunch position of the Consolidated Employers’ Organisation (and the 28 other responding parties) is validated with this ruling, emphasising that the MEIBC Main Agreement is a testament to the potential of collaborative efforts. Furthermore, for the first time, the agreement has taken the concerns of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) into account, allowing them a phased approach to wage implementation. This addresses a long-standing issue where no small-employer dispensation existed, previously proving costly for burgeoning businesses.

This sentiment was echoed by Labour Court Acting Judge S Snyman who observed that, while NEASA and SAEFA have shown reservations about bargaining councils, the broader ethos of the LRA always promoted collective bargaining at the sectoral level.

Daniel van der Merwe

National Collective Bargaining Coordinator