May 2014

Collective bargaining paves way for agreement

Written by Albert Pule

Labour issues

During strikes you might have heard the term "collective bargaining" used by labour experts and analysts.

To those who are not familiar with the language used during strikes this term might be confusing.

Vuk’uzenzele spoke to the Department of Labour to find out what collective bargaining is and why it is important during wage negotiations.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining is a process where the employer, employee and the mediator sit around the table to discuss wages and conditions of employment.

For example, during public service wage negotiations the employer would be the Department of Public Service and Administration representing government and trade unions representing employees while the mediator would be represented by General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council.

According to the Department of Labour, collective bargaining is also a vehicle through which employees and employers negotiate for improved working conditions through partnerships.

“It facilitates the relationship between employers and trade unions as well as gives them the opportunity to talk about their problems, challenges and how to resolve them and deal with workplace conflict,” says the Department of Labour.


One of the advantages of collective bargaining is the settlement of differences through discussions and agreements rather than conflict and confrontation. It is different from arbitration where the solution is based on a decision of a third party.

Collective bargaining is also a form of participation. Both parties participate in deciding what proportion of the ‘cake’ is to be shared by the parties entitled to a share.

Labour relations

Collective bargaining is an important aspect in the concept of social partnership in labour relations. It could be described as a partnership between the employer and labour designed to maintain non-confrontation in settling disputes, which may arise between employers and labour.

It also builds trust and understanding between employer and employee and an attitude of attacking problems together rather than each other and improving industrial relations.

It also establishes a productive relationship between the union and the employers’ organisation where the latter is involved in the negotiation process

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