The Minister of Employment and Labour gazetted the Metal Industry Consolidated Main Agreement today thereby making it legally binding on all employers and employees who are subject to the agreement’s scope of application.
This brings to an end a journey that began more than a decade ago – costing many millions of rands, occupying far too much court time and, quite frankly, could have been avoided.
After many rounds of litigation, the fact remains we have an agreement covering terms and conditions of employment, supported by the overwhelming majority of employees who are members of the trade unions (represented on the Bargaining Council) and the overwhelming majority of factory workers employed by employers who are members of one or other employer organizations represented on the Council. I have no doubt, however, that legal challenges will continue all the way to the Constitutional Court.
Whilst the Main Agreement has been unfairly and mischievously characterized as a SEIFSA / NUMSA Agreement, this couldn’t be furthest from the truth. The Agreement enjoys the support of five of the biggest trade unions in the industry, including NUMSA and the support of 18 independent Employer Organizations, in addition to the Consolidated Employers Organization (CEO), who on their own represent in excess of 6 70 employers employing well over 14 000 employees.
Whilst we acknowledge the right of our detractors to continue in their quest to have the agreement declared a nullity, our critics would be best advised to do some introspection and ask themselves what have they been doing for the last twenty years, participating on a forum that is designed and created to support centralized collective bargaining.
Bargaining Council by their very nature are created to uphold standards of fair play and decency, in the hope that every employer is free to run a business in a climate of industrial peace, stability, certainty and workers free to earn a decent wage from an honest day’s work. Bargaining Councils are designed to bring together employers and trade unions with the very purpose of concluding agreements that both sides can live with. This year we witnessed the coming together of NUMSA and the Plastic Convertors Association (PCA), the creation of their own bargaining chamber and the signing-off of their own collective agreement, operating under the auspices of the MEIBC. This agreement too, has been gazetted and extended to all employers and employees in the plastic sector of the metals industry.
This chamber will join other stand-alone Negotiating Forums and House Agreements all operating under the umbrella of the MEIBC.
In an environment where employers are struggling to keep the lights on and workers eking out a living, one needs to question the strategy of resorting to never ending court action and litigation, to achieve what ends?
Collective bargaining is tough, uncompromising, its contested terrain, it requires ingenuity, creative thinking and solid relationship in order for deals to be concluded. If you represent a constituency, you have a duty through the principle of agency and mandate to bargain as hard as you can to get the best deal possible for your membership.
Our loudest critic has been occupying a key space on the Bargaining Council for over two decades, and we are told time and time again that they represent a considerable constituency. This may be so, but with that comes the responsibility, duty and burden to negotiate, bargain and conclude deals in the best interest of one’s members.
With industry on its knees for reasons employers are all too well familiar, now is the time to rise above the noise and play a constructive role. After all, employers represented by all the Employer Organizations on the Bargaining Council have far more in common than what they think.
When all has been said and done, collective bargaining, in the final analysis, is about relationships not power – its high time our detractors learnt this point and put their shoulder to the proverbial wheel.
The Main agreement becomes legally binding on all non-party employers from Monday 17 October 2022.
Should you wish to scroll through the Main Agreement Click here
if you want to find out a little bit more about the Main Agreement and how it can benefit you and your business attend a the SEIFSA workshop by attending the Main Agreement Training Gazetted Training
If you are reading this and you are not a member of an Association federated to SEIFSA, now would be a good time to join.
To find out more about membership and benefits click here