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Liberate collective bargaining, says UASA CEO

UASA welcomes NUM general secretary Frans Baleni’s article in today’s edition of The Star, in which he elaborates about the history of collective bargaining and concludes by suggesting discussions to create a collective bargaining that works.

Koos Bezuidenhout, CEO of UASA and president of Fedusa, welcomes this suggestion, and believes that the time has come to liberate the system of collective bargaining in South Africa as it evolved through the years.

Freedom of association is enshrined in our constitution. In a diverse society such as ours, pluralism is at the heart of freedom of association. Political and religious pluralism may be tolerated, but the same cannot be said about labour relations, and more specifically collective bargaining, says Bezuidenhout.

Trade unionisation presents the widest scope of enjoyment of freedom of association and trade unionisation has a direct, essential and continuous effect on the interests and concerns of large numbers of workers.

Unfortunately, the Labour Relations Act has been drafted around the principle of majoritarianism, which happens to favour Cosatu and its affiliates. In so doing, the whole concept of pluralism was thwarted with many trade unions with substantial membership, potentially as much as 49% in an industry, ending up disenfranchised, silenced and denied collective bargaining rights.

Despite the above, the current dispensation has clearly failed, as can be attested by the Marikana situation and what followed thereafter and admitted by Frans Baleni in his above quoted article.

UASA welcomes Baleni’s  suggestion that we should sit down and develop a new collective bargaining system that works, albeit not only for Cosatu and its affiliates, but this time for all worker groupings so as to accommodate pluralism in our labour relations processes.

Fedusa recently wrote to the labour minister Mildred Oliphant requesting her to do the right thing and delete Section 18 of the Labour Relations Act. Such an intervention would prove to prevent workplace unrest, workplace violence and promote all-inclusive collective bargaining, be that at a centralised bargaining council, a workplace or a two-tier collective bargaining arrangement, says Bezuidenhout.