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Organisational Rights – Unions In The Workplace

Dear Reader.
This week we will be exploring the unionised working environment.  What is meant by unionised working environment?   It suggests that there is a recognised majority union in the workplace.  Organisational rights of such a union are regulated by sections 11 to 22 of the Labour Relations Act.
Majority unions are those unions that are registered and have as their members the majority of the employees employed by an employer in a workplace.   To be recognised as a majority union, the union will therefore need at least 50% plus 1 of the employees in the workplace to be active members of that union before it can be enjoy majority status.
A majority union has the following statutory rights conferred by section 12 of the Labour Relations Act:
•    An office bearer  or official of the union can enter the employer’s premises in order to recruit members, communicate with members or serve the interest of it’s members;
•    To hold meetings with employees outside working hours at the employer’s premises;
•    The members of the union is entitled to vote at the employer’s premises in any election or ballot contemplated in the union’s constitution;
It is important to note that all the above mentioned rights are subject to any conditions as to time and place that are reasonable and necessary to safeguard life or property or to prevent undue disruption of work.
If you are a member of a representative union you may authorise your employer in writing to deduct membership subscriptions or levies payable to that trade union from your wages / salary and the employer must then pay over the deducted monies to the union.
When there is majority union in the workplace, the members of that union has the right to elect a shop steward / trade union representative.  The rights, duties and obligations of this shop steward are regulated by section 14 of the Labour Relations Act and include the following:
•    To assist and represent employees in grievance and disciplinary proceedings in the workplace;
•    To monitor the employer’s compliance with workplace-related provisions of the LRA, in any law regulating terms and conditions of employment, and in binding collective agreements;
•    To report any alleged contravention of te said workplace-related provisions to the employer, the union, and any responsible authority or agency;
•    To perform any other function agreed upon between the union and the employer.
Your right to belong to a union is entrenched by the Constitution of South Africa and an employer is not allowed to interfere with this right.  Similarly the employer cannot:
•    harass employees because they have made wage increase demands ;
•    victimise any employee who wishes to join a trade union or are already a member of a trade union;
•    show a job applicant the door because he or she belongs to a certain union or plans on forming or joining a union.
A majority trade union has the right to assist employees throughout the retrenchment process and in this regard the obligation is on the employer to immediately notify the trade union when it contemplates dismissing one or more employees based on its operational requirements.  This obligation is laid down in section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.
Should you require any further information or assistance on your rights as an employee to belong to a trade union, please contact us.
Me. L Bouwer
(LLB, LLM (labour law))
General Manager: Legal Assistance



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