The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) today concluded its annual Collective Bargaining Conference. This year’s conference included some interesting presentations on the past year’s tumultuous negotiations, including presentations on inflation, critiques of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the proposed minimum wage.
The following is the full and unedited text of the declaration’s 39 clauses:
- 1. We, the twenty (20) trade unions together forming the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) once again gathered at the Black Eagle Conference Centre, Roodepoort for our annual Collective Bargaining Conference.
- 2. Our deliberations over the past two days (18 and 19 February 2014) were aimed at reflecting on the current state of collective bargaining in South Africa and to co-strategise on ways to engage in collective bargaining in 2014.
- 3. Presentations were made by various speakers, including the Minister of Finance, economists, academics, government officials, negotiators, as well as institutions like the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) as well as the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
- 4. After a reflection on the previous year’s declaration, Conference received a brief presentation on the history of collective bargaining in South Africa, containing certain highlights in the development of the relationship between employer and employee since the 1800s until the recent past.
- 5. The ILO’s presentation included highlights of the international development of collective bargaining practices, as well as an analysis of the current state of collective bargaining in the country. Conference heard how leadership and statesmanship were required to navigate out of the current difficulties faced by the country.
- 6. NEDLAC’s presentation explained how it, as prime social dialogue institution in South Africa operates and how it facilitates meaningful change regarding socioeconomic challenges. Conference reaffirmed its respect for NEDLAC and its dedication to peaceful social dialogue processes within the structure.
- 7. Conference noted with concern the high levels of union rivalry and strike violence in the country, and received presentations on the possible reasons for this. At the core of these reasons lay the departure from the principles of the “industrial democracy”, and Conference received various supporting arguments in this regard. One of these arguments was that section 18 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) by which majority unions sometimes excludes smaller unions operating in the same space or industries. It was noted that this tendency is particularly prevalent in the mining as well as the manufacturing and engineering sectors, and that it is not conducive for labour peace in our economy and our country.
- 8. Conference undertook to resist any attempts by other unions and employers to increase thresholds which will exclude FEDUSA affiliates and their members from existing recognition agreements. Conference agreed that FEDUSA must continue with the NEDLAC process regarding the principle of majoritarianism and to campaign for further amendments to the LRA.
- 9. The Department of Labour shared its focus areas for the coming year and gave a comprehensive presentation on the issue of a national minimum wage in terms of section 55 of the BCEA. Conference noted the dire need to engage in the institutional processes involved in collective bargaining, especially in certain bargaining councils where the lower job grades’ salaries might be less than the proposed national minimum wage. We will engage in talks in this regard and we will mandate our representatives and negotiators at NEDLAC to carry our mandates in this regard.
- 10. After a brief but thought-provoking forecast of the political arena of 2014, we shared experiences of collective bargaining processes in the private sector during the previous year. The different approaches to collective bargaining as well as mandating processes were discussed and different unions in the private sector shared their experiences in this regard.
- 11. Conference received a briefing by the CCMA on challenges in collective bargaining, noting that collective bargaining in South Africa was in a state of crisis and that social partners seem to be in a state of denial in this regard.
- 12. Conference noted the lack of joint preparations for collective bargaining processes between employers and trade unions, whereby a framework can be established to guide the process, as well as the lack of demand consolidation between multiple unions within one negotiations process as well as the lack of consolidating fair offers amongst employers.
- 13. Conference noted the absence of a mutually-agreed benchmark for demands and offers, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or food inflation. It was agreed that trade unions need to engage in proper research before negotiations, and attempt to reach agreement with employers on realistic and sustainable benchmarks for union demands and employer offers in wage negotiations.
- 14. Conference also noted the great importance of proper mandating processes as ineffective feedback and reporting to constituencies lead to dissatisfaction and alienation. Conference agreed that members remain at the centre of a trade union, and that mandating will always be the only way to engage in collective bargaining.
- 15. Conference received presentations on how the reluctance to show leadership as well as an inability to reflect on previous rounds of negotiations led to increased problems facing collective bargaining countrywide. It was agreed to evaluate the successes and failures after sessions, and use the experiences to reinforce and guide future engagements.
- 16. A central theme of many of the presentations was the underlying socioeconomic issues such as housing and access to healthcare. This, also known as the so-called social wage, seemed to impact negatively on wage negotiations by clouding the issues that are within the control of employers and trade unions.
- 17. Conference agreed that the migrant labour system was outdated and needed to be transformed as this led to all kinds of socioeconomic ills.
- 18. The perpetuation of adversarial and positional bargaining instead of a transition to interest-based bargaining, looking at a joint-problem solving approach to bargaining had to be investigated. It was agreed that unions needed to be clear about the underlying problems that their members face.
- 19. Ineffective use of or overreliance on the law and statutory dispute resolution processes were some of the problems identified. Conference agreed that there was a renewed need to investigate the value of alternative dispute resolution processes and proper engagement between parties.
- 20. We noted the role played by legal and other challenges to collective bargaining outcomes, and the exclusion of parties with an interest to centrally important bargaining processes. The Federation reaffirmed the need for inclusive collective bargaining.
- 21. Overall there was consensus that the approach to collective bargaining required new and innovative thinking and behaviour in order to change the process.
- 22. Conference received a presentation on the intricate make-up of the bargaining arrangements at the Public Sector Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), as well as its functions, scope, parties involved, and dispute resolution procedures. We heard about the relationships between parties in organised labour, and with the employer, focusing on non-implementation of agreements, favouritism, lacking mandates and drawn-out processes.
- 23. We shared experiences regarding the power-play between parties as well as the negative influence of alliance politics in collective bargaining, the need for plurality and mutual respect, the necessity to build the capacity of members to understand the process and substance of collective bargaining processes and outcomes.
- 24. We agreed that we must use the CCMA as a dispute resolution institution to the best of our ability to protect the rights of our members.
- 25. Conference noted the presentation of the ILO on mainstreaming gender in collective bargaining, calling the issue of gender an “inconvenient truth”, and noting that while the majority of union members are women, the majority of leaders and persons in decision-making positions remain male. It was noted that gender was a societal issue. Conference reaffirmed the commitment to build gender-sensitivity of the leadership while also building the leadership capacity of women in general so that they can take up leadership positions in unions.
- 26. Conference heard several arguments for the importance of leadership in social dialogue and collective bargaining. Conference agreed that it was important to show leadership in difficult strategic sessions, while ensuring that the correct type of leadership was applied in a sober-minded manner. Conference agreed on the importance of leaders following through on mandates while providing guidance to their constituencies in an effort to arrive at optimally successful outcomes in collective bargaining processes.
- 27. Conference agreed on the importance of leaders to build trust with their constituencies and stay relevant, while remaining true to principles, being honest and straightforward, and not to be misled by empty promises.
- 28. We noted the slow-down in the developed economies while it seems like developing countries are on the up. However, we also noted that South Africa is lagging behind within the group of developing countries, partly due to the fact that we hadn’t fully recovered from the Global Financial Crisis.
- 29. We noted that global income is growing, although this was mostly concentrated in high-earning salary brackets. We noted that the middle class in the developed world had declined, while the elite had boomed in numbers.
- 30. We noted that the social structure of the world is changing, with a lot of growth and development moving from the developed economies to the emerging economies.
- 31. Still, we noted that South Africa’s employment problem is higher than that of sub-Saharan Africa.
- 32. We noted that inflation is on the rise and the rand is depreciating, leading to fuel increases as well as electricity tariff hikes. We agreed that prices are ever-changing and that this fact puts pressure on our lives and those of our members. We agreed that employers have to increase our salaries and wages to meet these demands that are out of our control.
- 33. We agreed to challenge the current weights, and to participate in the new setting of weights for the inflation basket, thus addressing the believability of the cost-of-living indices in South Africa, such as the CPI. We agreed to engage with Statistics South Africa in this regard.
- 34. We saw how we, as members of trade unions, are the biggest group of contributors to income tax in the country, and therefore we have a specific interest in the gathering of tax, as well as fiscal policy and the spending of our hard-earned salaries.
- 35. Conference noted the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 0,7% and unemployment rate of 24,1%, coupled with the current consumer price index (CPI) of 5,8%. We reached consensus that sector-driven responsible settling points should be in the region of 8% to 12%, depending on the dynamics in the respective sectors of the economy, with the aim of providing a living wage to our members. Conference agreed that CPI might not be the best yardstick to measure cost of living, specifically for the most vulnerable sectors of our economy. We noted how these pressures are affecting costs for basic services such as medical aid fees and medicine, transport, education as well as costs for safety and security provisions.
- 36. Still, we agreed to focus on living within our means and having a responsible approach to managing our finances in general. Noting the scourge of garnishee orders, we agreed that workers must be wary of micro-lenders and unsecured lending agreements that seek to exploit them. We will campaign for Government to intervene in this regard.
- 37. In conclusion, Conference reaffirmed that FEDUSA shall continue to respect the institutions and framework provided by our legislation to regulate collective bargaining in an organised and secure manner. FEDUSA shall continue its proud legacy of a positive approach to collective bargaining, where problems are solved around the negotiating table and only as a last resort, through protected industrial action.
- 38. Conference again confirmed the commitment of affiliates to work together in our respective sectors of operation, within the broader structure of the Federation, to ensure maximum protection of rights and promotion of interests and benefits of our members.
- 39. Conference noted with pride the great strides FEDUSA unions have made on various fronts and took the challenge to take forward the ideals of maximum benefits for our members.
The FEDUSA Collective Bargaining Conference ran from 18 to 19 February 2014 at the Black Eagle Conference Centre in Roodepoort. The conference was attended by negotiators representing the twenty (20) trade unions affiliated to FEDUSA as well as several guests.
“We believe that we had some thought-provoking presentations and engaging debates at the Conference,” said FEDUSA Vice-President of Training and Education Eddie de Klerk. “Delegates participated enthusiastically and I believe our declaration shows the great level of consensus that FEDUSA can facilitate. We are now ready for the year’s negotiations, and our negotiators can base their demands on sound research and within the collective wisdom of the Federation,” he added.
“Our affiliated unions have taken stock over the past two days of the realities facing the labour movement in the collective bargaining arena, for 2014,” said FEDUSA Vice-President of Development, Ashley Benjamin. “We are convinced that we are adequately prepared to confront the challenges facing our members during this year’s collective bargaining season,” Benjamin concluded.
- ENDS -
[2 176 words excluding headings]
FEDUSA is the largest politically non-aligned trade union federation in South Africa and represents a diverse membership from a variety of sectors in industry. See www.fedusa.org.za for more information.
Eddie de Klerk (Vice-President, Training & Education)
Ashley Benjamin (Vice-President, Development)
Krister J van Rensburg (Deputy General Secretary)