The Main Agreement is a collective agreement between the employer organisations and trade unions that constitute the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council. This agreement provides comprehensive conditions of employment for some scheduled workers including workers supplied by labour brokers employed at over 10 companies in the industry. The terms and conditions of employment in the Main Agreement are derived from the mandated and negotiated positions of the employer organisations, trade unions and their respective members. When the agreement is published in the Government Gazette, it becomes legally binding on all employers engaged in the industry and those employees who fall under the scope of the Main Agreement. This gives rise to the next important question.
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Advertisement Other than wage increases, there are no other material concessions arising out of the recently concluded agreement. To this end, wage increases on actual rates of pay, across the board i. A key and important component of the deal is the commitment by all the signatories to prepare and submit to the Department of Labour a comprehensive and consolidated bargaining council collective Main Agreement for gazettal and extension to all non-party employers and employees falling within the scope of application of the Main Agreement.
This document is in the process of being finalised between the parties and once ready will be submitted to the Management Committee of the Bargaining Council for the necessary processing in terms of the Councils Constitution and Section 32 of the Labour Relations Act, 66 of , as amended.
For this reason, non-parties to the MEIBC have not been bound by the Main Agreement and have not been obliged to provide workers with the minimum terms and conditions prescribed for the industry. Operations Director for the Steel and Engineering Industries Federal of Southern Africa SIEFSA , Lucio Trentini, has advised that the parties are committed to following a fair and transparent process to ensure that any gazetting and extension will pass judicial scrutiny.
It is expected that the draft Consolidated Main Agreement will be tabled for consideration by the Bargaining Councils Management Committee in the new-year.
Part of this process will entail the issuing of a certificate of membership by the Department of Labour, confirming the levels of membership of the respective parties - including the non-party employer associations who are registered with the bargaining council but have elected not to endorse the agreement.
This is an important element in meeting the various legal threshold set-out in Section 32 of the Labour Relations Act. Although this process has been riddled with technical issues and procedural hurdles, from a substance perspective, an extension of the Main Agreement is a welcome measure to align the industry.
When considering the size of the industry and its players, as well as the potential for disparity particularly in wages, fairness dictates that all workers who fall within the technical schedules set out in the Main Agreement should be afforded the same benefits and protections regardless of who they are employed by.
By the same token though, fairness to employers must also be observed. While the provisions of the Main Agreement will apply to all employers falling within the scope of application of the Main Agreement within the metals and engineering industries, any extension of the Main Agreement must ensure that party and in particular non-party employers who may not have been complying with the provisions of the or Main Agreement have effective and efficient access to exemption processes which take into account their difficulties and that their pleas for relief are granted through the issuing of the necessary licenses of exemptions in order to minimise the unnecessary loss of much needed jobs.
Written by Sherisa Rajah, partner at Fasken.
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