n Acta Juridica - The state of centralised bargaining and possible future trends

Volume 2012, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



This contribution examines the state of the centralised bargaining system in South Africa and discusses three trends that could indicate its future trajectory. Recent research on the bargaining council system is surveyed, which provides empirical data on the number, coverage and representivity of bargaining councils, as well as on bargaining council wages, social benefit funds, exemptions and dispute resolution. The contribution also considers the development of centralised bargaining forums outside the bargaining council system. While the research reveals that there have been some positive developments in the centralised bargaining system, they are outweighed by a number of challenges which threaten the system, particularly in the private sector. The challenges have been exacerbated by weakening trade union organisation in many sectors, and growing casualisation and externalisation of employment.

The state of the bargaining council system in the private sector contrasts with the strength of centralised bargaining in the public sector, with the latter seemingly becoming the centre of gravity of the collective bargaining system. The growing importance of collective bargaining in the public sector is one of the three trends on which the contribution focuses. Another trend is the strengthening of bargaining council system through the slow but steady process to establish a bargaining council in the mining sector. The remaining trend, epitomised by the difficulties being faced by the bargaining council in the clothing sector, highlights the challenges facing the bargaining council system. The three trends, however, are contradictory, which makes it impossible to predict the future of centralised bargaining in the South Africa. Surprisingly, the proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act make no reference to the bargaining council system, which is a missed opportunity to provide it with the support it needs to meet the challenges it faces.

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