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Basic Guide to Trade Unions

by admin — last modified 2008-10-09 16:21


Strong trade unions are necessary for effective collective bargaining - an important way of regulating industrial relations and of determining workers’ wages and benefits. Trade unions do not have to be registered with the Department of Labour, but registered unions have additional rights.

Application

The Labour Relations Act applies to all employers, workers, trade unions and employers’ organisations, but does not apply to -
  • members of the:
    • National Defence Force;
    • National Intelligence Agency; or
    • South African Secret Service.

See

  • Labour Relations Act
    Applies to all workers and employers and aims to advance economic development, social justice, labour peace and the democracy of the workplace.

Registration

Trade unions do not have to register with the Department of Labour, but they are advised to do so. Registration affects the rights of unions.
 
If unions wish to be registered, their constitutions have to meet certain requirements, including:
  • provision in the constitution for a ballot of members before a strike or lock-out is called; and
  • no provision in the constitution that discriminates on the grounds of race or sex.
A trade union wishing to register must also be free from the influence or control of an employer or employers’ organisation.

Rights of Trade Unions

Registered unions have more rights than unregistered ones, including:
  • organisational rights awarded by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA);
  • a right to –
    • be a member of a bargaining or statutory council, subject to the admission requirements of the council;
    • enter into agency and closed shop agreements;
      o establish workplace forums;
    • conclude collective agreements;
    • enter an employer’s premises (employer’s permission is required to enter a private home) to recruit or meet members;
    • hold meetings with employees outside their working hours at the employer’s premises; and
    • conduct elections or ballots among its members on union matters.
All trade unions have a right to –
  • perform lawful activities;
  • form or affiliate with national and/or international trade union or employers’ federations; and
  • fund or be funded by such international federations.

Based on Legislation in Section 8, Section 12, Section 17, of the Labour Relations Act

Disputes

Any party may refer, in writing, any disputes about the rights of trade unions to –
  • a statutory or bargaining council;
  • the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA); or
  • the Labour Court.

Worker’s Rights

Workers and job seekers have a right to join and be active in trade unions.

Right to Form or Join a Union

Workers and job seekers have a right to -
  • form a trade union;
  • join a trade union;
  • take part in lawful trade union activities; and
  • be protected from employers or others who discriminate against them because of their membership or activities.

Based on legislation in Section 4, Section 5, of the Labour Relations Act

Deduction of Subscriptions

Workers who are members of a registered trade union may give their employer written permission to deduct trade union subscriptions or levies from their wages.
 
Workers may cancel this deduction by giving their employer and the trade union one month’s written notice.

Based on Legislation in Section 13 of the Labour Relations Act

Protection from Discrimination

Employers may not discriminate against workers or job applicants who are trade union members or who take part in trade union activities.  They may not reward workers or job applicants who are not trade union members.

Based on Legislation in Section 5, of the Labour Relations Act

Disputes

Any party may refer, in writing, any disputes about the rights of workers to –
  • a bargaining or statutory council,
  • the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), or
  • the Labour Court.

Employer’s Duties

Deduction of Subscriptions

If an employer receives written authorisation from a worker to deduct trade union subscriptions from their wages, the employer must begin making the authorised deduction as soon as possible.
 
The amount deducted must be given to the trade union by not later than the 15th day of each month.

Based on legislation in Section 13, of the Labour Relations Act


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