National Level Bargaining in South Africa is a form of Collective Bargaining between large Trade Unions and Employer Organisations at a national level. This means that negotiations on employment conditions and terms of work, including wages and benefits, occur between prominent Trade Unions and Employer Organisations, as opposed to negotiations at an individual workplace level.

National Level Bargaining is provided for in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which sets out specific requirements for fair negotiation, constructive engagement, and dispute resolution. The process of National Level Bargaining is facilitated by sectoral agreements that set out common terms and conditions of employment for specific industries or sectors.

This type of bargaining allows Trade Unions to negotiate on behalf of a large number of Employees in a particular sector, providing a stronger negotiating position and greater bargaining power. Likewise, it also allows Employers to negotiate with a single entity representing many businesses in a particular industry. This streamlines the negotiating process.

National Level Bargaining is essential in South Africa because of the high levels of income inequality. It has been crucial in promoting social dialogue addressing wage differentials, contributing to a more equitable workplace.

Some have criticised National Level Bargaining for needing to be more centralised and excluding smaller, more specialised Trade Unions and Employers who may not be part of negotiations. After all, each business exhibits its unique operational requirements. CEO’s National Collective Bargaining Team does its best to mitigate against unequal bargaining power and exclusion of minority voices in negotiations.

National Level Bargaining is also an essential feature of the South African labour market. While there may be concerns regarding its centralisation and the possible exclusion of smaller groups, National Level Bargaining remains an effective mechanism for Collective Bargaining at a national level.

CEO’s National Collective Bargaining Team ensures its members’ interests are considered on this level.

Article By: Gordon Flanagan
Dispute Resolution Official – CEO Cape Town