The South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) was pursuing the establishment of a national bargaining council to enable a centralised bargaining platform for the industry, said head of human resources Dr Annelie Gildenhuys.
The federation, which applied for the establishment of a bargaining council for the civil engineering industry with the Department of Labour last year, hoped to gain approval by the end of 2012.
Speaking to Engineering News Online, Gildenhuys said that Safcec, in conjunction with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Building Construction and Allied Workers Union, would be responsible for the development and operation of the council, which was expected to represent in excess of 175 000 employees in the future.
To date, NUM, related unions and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which rejected collective bargaining in the mining industry, had not objected to its development.
The bargaining council would aim to stabilise relationships and the conditions of employment, develop more mature agreements and eliminate two-tier negotiations. Many of the issues and demands were similar across the sector, and a bargaining council would assist in addressing the workers’ needs nationally.
“You could pre-empt a lot of indiscriminate recourse to industrial action,” said Gildenhuys, adding that dispute resolution and the stability of the industry could be addressed in a creative way in the council.
She commented that a bargaining council comes with its own set of challenges, but, if approached holistically and inclusively, it could be better and more effectively managed.
Gildenhuys further commented that, while a bargaining council might not have been the solution to the platinum sector’s wage woes, it might well have prevented the scale of the troubled sector’s challenges or mitigated the demands of the industry.