A vast labour relations framework regulates South Africa. It relies on legislation such as the Labour Relations Act or the Basic Conditions of Employment Act for their statutory base. Bargaining Councils play an important role in regulating labour relations and ensuring their enforcement.

As a starting point, Bargaining Councils are bodies established by one or more employer’s organisations and one or more trade unions which council must be registered in terms of the Labour Relations Act. Bargaining Councils operate within specific industries and deal primarily with dispute resolution, creation and enforcement of collective agreements, and collection and management of funds for the benefit of their members and relevant parties. Employers whose core function operates within a particular council’s scope and operation are obliged to register with the council.

There are various advantages with registering to a bargaining council, paramount of which is that disputes are adjudicated upon with a specialised understanding of the industry. Bargaining councils have concurrent jurisdiction with the CCMA on matters which fall to be adjudicated upon in the industry contemplated.

Bargaining councils conclude collective agreements that are negotiated and converted to written agreements regarding terms and conditions of the workplace and other matters of mutual interest, such as agreements pertaining to calculating sick leave, bonus pay, and minimum wages.

In certain instances, councils may deem it necessary to extend collective agreements to non-parties, which means that whether you are registered with the bargaining council or not, the rules of the collective agreement will apply to you (should you fall within the contemplated sector of the council).

It is imperative to note that collective agreements are binding on member parties and can supersede existing legislation. Using the example of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), a collective agreement that offers less favourable or more favourable terms than those contained in the BCEA will supersede the BCEA on conditions that are not core values or conditions which may be amended as per the BCEA. It ought to be noted further that, where parties are members of a bargaining council or where collective agreements apply to non-parties, the terms of such collective agreements will supersede contracts of employment where there is non-conformity between the two.

In short, it is of paramount importance that employers know if they fall within the scope or ambit of a particular bargaining council and if any collective agreements are appliable to them. Employers will be required to comply with the terms of appliable collective agreements that extend the statutory labour relations framework.

Article by: Avishkar Singh
Dispute Resolution Official – Durban