In May 2022, after an 8-year endeavour, SMMEs’ voices were heard for the first time in the history of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) when CEO and other stakeholders at the Council settled upon a new MEIBC Main Agreement. This agreement recognises the fact that Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) had been ignored in respect of no small-employer dispensation, which was largely unaffordable for small and upcoming businesses until now. The New MEIBC Main Agreement allows SMMEs to gradually phase in their wages in a multi-phased manner.
On 29 June 2022, a meeting of the MEIBC resolved to request the Minister of Employment and Labour to extend the Main Agreement to non-parties, whereupon NEASA and SAEFA launched an urgent application in the Labour Court in order to halt this process and have section 32(1) of the Labour Relations Act be declared unconstitutional. But, in a scathing rebuke of the Applicants, Acting Judge S Snyman, struck down their application in its entirety and ordered them to pay the Respondents’ costs, one of which was CEO.
While NEASA and SAEFA are expected to appeal the Labour Court decision, the judgment is another confirmation of the overwhelming benefit that the new MEIBC Main Agreement will deliver to SMMEs and employers across the board. Judge Snyman pointed to NEASA’s consistent efforts since 2014 to scupper any attempt to extend the main agreement of the MEIBC to non-parties. “This has left the untenable situation that non-parties to the metal and engineering industry, being the industry over which the MEIBC presides, are not bound by what had been negotiated and agreed to at industry level for the whole industry. This not only makes proper enforcement of minimum conditions of employment for the industry virtually impossible, but leads to a disparity of conditions of employment in the industry.”
Judge Snyman correctly reiterates the Applicant’s approach of “attempting everything in their power to get out of the Main Agreement”. This has been the pattern for several years and has led to the constant destabilisation of the industry.
When looking at the mandate received from our members and considering becoming signatories to this agreement, CEO’s main objective remained the business welfare of our members and the industry as a whole. With the ongoing struggles faced by our members, who are predominantly SMMEs, the continued instability of the industry could lead to irrevocable losses. We had no choice but to act in our members’ best interests.
We welcome the judgement and the applicable cost order, confirming that the Courts do not view frivolous and vexations applications lightly. We thus eagerly await the Minister of Labour’s assessment of the ongoing public comments received regarding the extension.”
Released issued by National Manager, Jaundré Kruger
Tel. 051 444 0158 or 082 290 8836
Please click here to view the judgment of 31 August 2022.
Please click here to view the New MEIBC Main Agreement.