Labour Relations Act: Promoting Economic Development

The Labour Relations Act was introduced in 1995 promote economic development, Labour peace and democracy in the workplace and social justice. The Act contains rules and procedures that relate to the dismissal of employees. It is divided into 214 sections and countless schedules. Its purpose will be discussed in the following contents:

  • Freedom of association
  • Organisational rights
  • Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA),
  • Labour Court and the Appeal Labour Court
  • Bargaining councils
  • Strikes and lock-outs
  • Collective agreements
  • Workplace forums
  • Unfair dismissals.

In terms of freedom of association, employees can form trade unions and participate in the activities of any trade union of their choice. Employers have a fundamental right to join other employer’s organisations. Trade unions can exercise their organisational rights with respect to the premises of the employer. Trade unions may gain access to the premises of the employer to recruit members. The CCMA is an institution put in place by the Act for the resolution of Labour disputes. It’s main focus is to address unfair dismissals by means of conciliation and arbitration in line with the Act.

The Act has established two courts that will deal with labour disputes. They are the Labour Court and the Appeal Court. The Labour Court consists of a Judge President and a Deputy Judge President. The Court's jurisdiction is however limited unlike the High Court this it can only deal with disputes according to the Act. The Labour Appeal Court can rule on all appeals opposed to the final judgements of the Labour Court. The Act largely focuses on collective bargaining. The Act has put in place structures (Bargaining councils) that deal with bargaining and dispute-resolution. Strikes and lock-outs have been permitted by the Act however they must comply with the rules of the Act. As collective bargaining occurs, an agreement has to be reached. The Act makes provision of mechanisms that ensure that agreement is reached between parties.

The Act has put in place workplace forums to change hostile relationships between trade unions and employer into a problem-solving one. The forums enforce co-operative relations through information sharing and consultation through which is not possible through collective bargaining. The Act states that no employee should be dismissed unfairly.

As seen above, the Act has been put in place to solve labour disputes and promote social justice within the workplace therefore it is necessary for businesses and employees. For example, Israelstam (2017) mentions a case where the dismissal of a resident manager of a children’s home for appearing in an intoxicated state in front of the children. Although the CCMA found the manager guilty, he kept his job. This was because the CCMA found the dismissal to be unfair and because the employer failed to facilitate the cross examination phase of the disciplinary hearing. The Act protects employees from unfair dismissals. It is necessary for businesses because it provides them with rules on how to treat their employees. The Act provides employees ways of voicing their issues with their employees through strikes and lock out. Employees for example can protest through a strike if they are not satisfied with their salaries.

In conclusion, the Act provides protection for all employees across South Africa by giving them rights.

29 April 2020
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