WHY IS COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FAILING IN SOUTH AFRICA?
1. What is collective bargaining?
There are various positions taken to define the term ‘Collective Bargaining’ but what seems to be prevalent in most definitions is that; simply put it is a process of negotiating employment terms involving different stakeholders in the employment relationship. According to Bendix (2010):
Collective bargaining is the central process emanating from the conduct of the traditional collective labour relationship. Having sought their power in the collectivity and having identified interests and goals divergent from those of the employer, employees, through their unions, will demand from the employer that he establish a bargaining relationship with them so that together they may attempt to resolve their conflicts and regulate their relationship.
The above stated definition speaks of the regulation of this employment terms negotiation relationship. Which in turn shapes what the collective bargaining process is. In the employment relationship, it is evident that employees may not always have the opportunity to all communicate their needs to the employer, which brings in the role of the trade unions whom facilitate the interests of the employees through a dialogue process with the employer. ‘Collective bargaining is a union-initiated process (Bendix 2010).’ What cannot be isolated from the collective bargaining process is that it is a conflict resolution mechanism in the workplace. The process of collective bargaining has to be explored in context to occurrences in the labour market in order to establish its prevalent meaning.
Collective bargaining has different meaning across the globe as the occurrences in the respective labour markets differs depending on labour legislation that shapes it. In Germany, ‘the Works Constitution Act (WCA) does not provide German trade unions with the same sweeping powers over works councils that are found in LRA (Du Toit 2000).’ The South African Labour Relations Act (LRA) contains provisions that outlines collective bargaining process. What is contained in LRA speaks to the formation of trade unions, to the operation processes and rights given to them. This is vital in establishing uniformity in the operations of what processes the unions are to embark on during collective bargaining processes as collective agreements are enforced.
Collective bargaining in South Africa
In the South context, ‘its importance has been underlined by the legacy of deep adversarialism between organized labour and employers, the recent struggles of the trade union movement to achieve recognition and continued wariness on the part of unions against real or perceived attempts by employers to undermine their hard-won status (Du Toit 2000).’ South Africa being a trade union militant country has made the collective bargaining process only the next step in living up to its legacy. Also being a country that has a lot of labour legislation that governs the...