Collective bargaining in a globalised era : a change in approach

Master Thesis

2012

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University of Cape Town

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The government in the new democratic South Africa prioritised resolving the problems plaguing the industrial relations system. It did this by enacting a new labour relations Act. This Act repealed the 1956 LRA and enacted the Labour Relations Act of 1995 which established a collective bargaining system combining new elements with elements from the previous legislative dispensation. The new system retained the voluntary duty to bargain. It balanced this by entrenching a protected right to resort to industrial action as well as by creating organisational rights available to unions with ‘sufficient’ and/or majority representivity. The former enabled unions to compel the employer to bargain, whilst the latter assisted unions in bargaining. The Act also promoted centralised bargaining. It did this by retaining, but renaming industrial councils, bargaining councils and by ensuring that bargaining council agreements could be extended where parties to the agreement covered the majority of workers in a sector. Therefore, the effectiveness of trade unions depended, to a substantial extent, ‘on their representativeness and their cohesiveness’. The collective bargaining mechanism established by the 1995 LRA thus became the primary ‘mechanism for setting wages and other terms of employment…a way of managing complex organisations…a form of joint industrial government, and generally…a means of regulating labour-management relations’.
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