Political parties and trade unions in the workplace

When trade unions lay claim to organisational rights in the workplace, employers are often uncertain about their own rights and those of the trade union, as well as how these rights are regulated. Currently, there is a tendency for certain political parties to try and appropriate trade union rights for themselves and intimidate employers into consulting and reaching agreements on terms and conditions of employment.

The 5 organisational rights

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) grants the following organisational rights to trade unions, subject to certain requirements:

  • Access to the workplace
  • Deduction of union registration fees
  • Trade union representation in the workplace
  • Leave for trade union activities
  • Disclosure of information

What about a political party?

A political party is a political organisation that seeks to influence government policies, usually by setting up its own candidates and vying for votes and government positions.

No authorisation or permission is given to political parties for similar rights as those of trade unions. Employers must guard against entering into discussions with political parties regarding rights in the workplace.

If a trade union wants to claim organisational rights in the workplace, the trade union must first be registered with the Department of Employment and Labour. The trade union’s constitution must also be aligned with the employer’s business sector. Then, the trade union must also have sufficient (±20%) or majority (50% + 1) representation in the workplace in order to be able to claim certain organisational rights. Previously the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) considered ±30% representation in the workplace as sufficient representation, but currently the trend has moved to only ±20% representation.

Process to claim rights

In order to claim organisational rights, legislation requires trade unions to follow a procedure, which entails that the trade union must notify the employer in writing of the rights that the trade union want to exercise in the workplace. The employer must then meet within 30 days with the trade union to consult. A recognition agreement is then concluded if the trade union meets the necessary requirements, which stipulates the terms and conditions agreed upon.



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