Navigating Labour Pains

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Navigating Labour Pains

On September 20, 2021, Posted by , In News, With No Comments

Under the current economic climate, it is “all hands on deck” for businesses across South Africa. This is more so for the HVAC +R industry which has long suffered low growth and market instability. In good and bad times, success is often reliant on businesses joining an industry-specific association. The right association chosen will help support and drive a business forward. In the case of South Africa, SARACCA is that said association.

SARACCA is one of the biggest associations within the HVAC+R industry. As an employer’s organisation SARACCA offers many essential benefits to members ranging from training to labour. A key benefit is an affiliation to the Steel Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA). This affiliation gives SARACCA members access to SEIFSA’s array of professional business products and services. SARACCA is also a signatory to the Main Agreement.

The Main Agreement

The Main Agreement is a settlement agreement reached between labour unions and SEIFSA. The Main Agreement forms an integral part of a SARACCA member’s labour policy, holding many advantages for employers, such as:

  • The Main Agreement guides members on terms and conditions of employment such as; hours of work, intervals and breaks, overtime rates, shift allowances, payment for working on Sunday and Public Holidays and so forth.
  • The Main Agreement contains three key provisions not found in either the Basic Conditions of Employment Act or the Labour Relations Act that allow employers to immediately respond to dips in their operating cycle caused by circumstances beyond their immediate control and implement short time, lay-off and/or be entitled to send employees home due to planned and/ or unplanned outages, load shedding and/or any service delivery failures.
  • The Main Agreement contains an important peace clause that protects employers from being approached to engage in plant-level bargaining, any form of industrial action during the currency of an agreement related to terms and conditions of employment and once gazetted this protection is extended to cover any trade union who may not be a signatory to the Main Agreement or registered with the bargaining council but has managed to recruit members on an employers’ shop floor.
  • The Main Agreement also contains a generic exemptions clause that allows party employers to apply for exemption from any provision of the Main Agreement.
  • The Main Agreement also contains an alternative working time provision that allows employers and their employees to reach an agreement on a variety of alternative working time arrangements ranging from averaging of working hours, working over week-ends at normal rates of pay, banking hours etc. to the extent that this provision refers to any alternative working time arrangement agreed between workers and management.
  • In such instances, any working time agreement would trump the terms and conditions contained in the Main Agreement, with the employer retaining all the rights and protections contained in the Main Agreement.

Job Grading

The Main Agreement offers a simple guideline for the job grading of employees, with schedule E/3 specifically applying to employers involved in the industrial refrigeration and air-conditioning industry. In many cases, the E/3 schedule is not suitable for some contractors. Therefore, the Main Agreement offers the five-grade structure which defines employee’s area and scope of work which can also be applied to employers involved in the industrial refrigeration and air-conditioning industry. Job grading is essentially the process of assigning a specific grade to work undertaken by an employee. There are many reasons why a detailed job grade is important, here are four:

  1. It ensures that the employee is correctly remunerated per the Main Agreement relevant to the rate as prescribed and as applies to the work performed by the employee.
  2. It eliminates the possibility of underpayment of wages thereby avoiding any assessment for underpayment of wages.
  3. It provides objective guidelines eliminating the likelihood of complaints around underpayments and/or incorrect job grading.
  4. It avoids the employer having to pay a wage assessment in addition to the possibility of a fine being imposed and being held liable for the Arbitration costs.

Benefit by Association

SARACCA is a growing association and through its benefits and affiliation to SEIFSA, members have navigated difficult waters, given the right support at the right time. Key benefits such as labour policies and grading guidelines have given the SARACCA member peace of mind, even when the industry has seen the proliferation of unions and the recent phenomenon of the emergence of political parties on the shop floor. SARACCA’s mission is to ensure that the industry is governed by world-class standards and operates free of fear or favour, leaving businesses to focus on growth.

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