Judge J Koen has ruled that the Minister of Labour’s decision to extend the 2010 clothing industry wage agreement to companies not party to the clothing industry bargaining council should be set aside. That is all.
Yet, there has been widespread misreporting about the actual content and effect of the judgement and people’s imaginations are running wild!
The Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) says - It is a hollow victory for non-compliant employers. It has now only hardened SACTWU’s attitude towards them, the opposite effect of what they expected.
It is not true that the judgment has the effect of setting aside the clothing industry minimum wage regime. There is still a gazetted and extended industry-wide minimum wage agreement in place, despite the setting aside of the 2010 extension.
This covers all clothing employers and clothing workers in every part of the country. All employers are required to comply with their obligations legislated in this agreement, including the payment of legal minimum wages. SACTWU expects them to do so, and will do everything in its power to compel them to do so.
It is not true that the Judge has ruled that non-compliant, non-party companies now have the right to negotiate outside of the bargaining council system. This is nowhere to be found in the written judgment. The bargaining council remains the only place where it intends to bargain. There will be no negotiations outside this forum.
It is not true that the judgment means that the bargaining council is prohibited from executing writs of execution against non-compliant companies. Only those writs held against the now set aside 2010 extended agreement is now held in abeyance.
But the vast majority of writs still remain legally valid, as these have been issued against many other legitimate agreements, other than the 2010 extension. We will now step up our fight against illegality, by ensuring that legitimately secured writs are executed as speedily as possible.
It is not true that the Minister will no longer in future be able to extend a bargaining council agreement to non-parties. The judgment has only identified an administrative error in the manner in which the Minister has extended the 2010 wage agreement. The judgment does not remove this power from the Minister. SACTWU will work with the Minister to strengthen extension capacity.
It is not practically and legally possible for employers to now “take back” increases granted to workers, in consequence of the 2010 extended agreement. It will unleash widespread and spontaneous industrial unrest.