Written by Lucio Trentini is the Chief Executive Officer of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa

On the 25 August 2023, the Constitutional Court dismissed the leave to appeal sought by NEASA and SAEFA. This follows the rejection of their previous appeals by both the Labour Court and the Labour Appeals Court. The issue at hand is NEASA’s and SAEFA challenge against the decision of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) to extend the Main Agreement to non-parties effective 17 October 2022.

This judgment reinforces the principles of centralised collective bargaining, a cornerstone of South African labour relations. In terms of current law and in-line with a Section 32 of the Labour Relations Act, where an agreement is negotiated and concluded by bargaining agents who represent and employ the majority of employees falling within the bargaining council’s coverage, the extension of a bargaining council agreement is seen as a reasonable and necessary mechanism of collective bargaining and is a key ingredient in ensuring labour market peace, stability, certainty and social justice.

SEIFSA’s support for and defence of centralised collective bargaining is validated not only with this judgment, but by what the Labour Court opined its initial judgment and supported by the same Court in striking down NEASA and SAEFA’s leave to appeal and again by the Labour Appeals Court.

The 2021/ 2024 Main Agreement will lapse on 30 June 2024. It is fair to say the lessons learned in concluding an industry agreement, having it published and extended and being challenged every step of the way and importantly winning at each hurdle will stand us in good stead as we lay the groundwork for next year’s round of collective bargaining.

Importantly, through the process, bonds between so-called traditional adversaries i.e., business and labour, have been strengthened, legal battles have been waged and won and whilst NEASA and SAEFA will contemplate their next move, they would be best advised to do the right thing and rather focus on seeking a way back into the proverbial tent as next year looms large.

Standing on the outside and ventilating one’s unhappiness in Court at significant expense surely is not in anyone’s best interests.

For further information please visit: www.seifsa.co.za

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