Labour law often seems intimidating but is in fact, a really important tool and an ally in the fight for workers’ rights. Using the law to your members’ advantage requires you to be familiar with all the acts and to stay up to date with any changes to these laws. It also requires you to understand which laws you can use to back you in the different challenges you are likely to face in the negotiation process.
Labour legislation in South Africa
Over the past few years our labour legislation has grown in complexity, with many rules and regulations that can lead to uncertainty and confusion.
Labour law can be defined as the framework in which industrial relations are practiced. Labour law does the following:
- it gives structure to the workplace
- it defines what both employees and employers are responsible for
- it outlines regulations for resolving workplace conflict.
1995 was an important year for labour relations in South Africa, with both the passing of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the introduction of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), providing workers with legal and cost-free easy access to just treatment in employment and in a retrenchment process.
Over the past few years, our labour legislation has grown in complexity, with many rules and regulations that can lead to uncertainty and confusion. It is a union’s responsibility to keep up to date with all new amendments and aspects of the law and to support workers to understand and exercise their rights and responsibilities.
For worker leaders involved in organising and bargaining, labour law is an important tool to both defend and advance the interests of workers. This approach is captured in the sentiments of a worker leader participating in a Labour Research Service workshop in 2019:
What exists within the labour legislation are minimum rights. When bargaining, we start with these minimums as our floor and then bargain for more. It is important that when signing collective agreements, we are clear that the agreement is not restating what already exists in the law – and that it captures the gains we have won over and above what exists in the law. To remind us of this, we always need to have key legislation that can support our bargaining and organising at hand.
Key South African legislation 2020
- Labour Relations Act (LRA)
- Codes of good practice on dismissals; arrangement of overtime
Conditions of Employment
- Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)
- Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
- Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) of 1993
- National Minimum Wage Act
- Codes of Good Practice on pregnancy and afterbirth; sexual harassment; HIV & Aids
Redressing the inequalities of the past
- Employment Equity Act (EEA)
- Codes of Good Practice
Training and development
- Skills Development Act (SDA)
- Skills Development Levies Act (SDLVA)
- South African Qualifications Authority Act (SAQA)
- Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)