Collective bargaining helps narrow gender gap, advances equality - ILO

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has released its latest social dialogue report. It also explored how collective bargaining played a critical role in building resilience against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among workers and businesses.

FILE: Thousands of Numsa members marched from Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown to the offices of the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council in Marshalltown on 5 October 2021. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey Makhaza/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - As the South African labour market grapples with the fate of collective bargaining in the light of recent challenges, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has once again affirmed that the process contributes to narrowing the gender gap, advances equality and fosters inclusion.

The United Nations labour agency has released its latest social dialogue report, which examines collective agreements and practices in 80 countries, including South Africa.

It also explored how collective bargaining played a critical role in building resilience against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among workers and businesses.

The social dialogue report shows that close to 60% of collective agreements which were reviewed during the study reflected a joint commitment by employers and trade unions to address pay inequality.

Albeit South Africa is cited as one of the countries where it’s evident that the system works, players in the labour market have not always embraced the process.

While trade unions feel that collective bargaining is being eroded by the lack of implementation of agreements by employers, most recently the government in the public service, employers have long fought for the labour minister not to extend such agreements to non-parties as provisioned for in the Labour Relations Act.

The report cites further examples of other employers globally who want governments to refrain from promoting one specific industrial relations model.

It also describes collective bargaining as an important tool for securing decent work, guaranteeing equality of opportunity and treatment, and stabilising labour relations among others.