Although the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) main agreement negotiation process, that took place from June to August last year, was riddled with technical issues and procedural hurdles, the extension to all nonparty employers and employees falling within the scope of application of the main agreement is a welcome measure to align the industry.
Nonparties to the MEIBC were previously not bound by the main agreement and were not obliged to provide workers with the minimum terms and conditions prescribed for the industry.
Global law firm Fasken partner and labour lawyer Sherisa Rajah on Tuesday outlined that fairness dictated that all workers who fall within the technical schedules set out in the main agreement should be afforded the same benefits and protections regardless of who they are employed by, when considering the size of the industry and its players, as well as the potential for disparity, particularly with regard to wages.
However, the extension of the agreement to nonparties remained a contentious issue with the National Employers' Association of South Africa (Neasa), which alluded to potential litigation to challenge the lawfulness of the extension primarily on procedural grounds as with the 2011 and 2014 main agreements.
Rajah noted that, in this case, fairness to employers also needed be observed.
"While the provisions of the main agreement will apply to all employers falling within the scope of application of the main agreement within the metals and engineering industries, any extension of the main agreement must ensure that party and, in particular, nonparty employers who may not have been complying with the provisions of the 2011 or 2014 main agreement, have effective and efficient access to exemption processes," Rajah highlighted.
This would take into account their difficulties and that their "pleas for relief" were granted through the issuing of the necessary licences of exemptions to reduce the unnecessary loss of much-needed jobs.
It is expected that the draft consolidated main agreement will be tabled for consideration by the Bargaining Councils Management Committee soon.
Part of this process would entail the issuing of a certificate of membership by the Department of Labour, confirming the levels of membership of the respective parties - including the nonparty employer associations who are registered with the bargaining council but have elected not to endorse the agreement.