Regulating labour relations
South Africa's labour legislation is among the most progressive in the world, providing
for institutions to settle disputes and ensure fairness in the workplace.
This was not always the case. Industrial relations in the apartheid era were
characterised by high levels of racial discrimination, conflict, union repression, cheap
labour policies and authoritarian management style.
The post-1994 labour legislation, the product of extensive consultation between
government, labour and employers, has established institutions to nurture sound, co-
operative industrial relations:
National Economic, Development & Labour
Nedlac aims to allow inclusive and transparent decision making about labour issues.
Launched in 1995, it brings together representatives from all sectors of society who
debate and try to reach consensus on social and economic policy issues in what the
body terms “social dialogue”.
Funded by the Department of Labour, Nedlac’s work is conducted in four chambers:
the labour market chamber, the trade and industry chamber, the development
chamber, and the public finance and monetary chamber. The chambers report to a
management committee which oversees the work programme and administrative
Organised labour is represented in Nedlac by the three main labour federations, the
Congress of South African Trade Unions, National Council of Trade Unions and the
Federation of Unions of South Africa.
Organised business is represented by Business Unity South Africa, an umbrella body
which brings together the Black Business Council and Business South Africa.
Organised community is represented by the South African Youth Council, the National
Women's Coalition, the South African National Civics Organisation, Disabled People
South Africa, Financial Sector Coalition and the National Co-operatives Association of
The government delegation to Nedlac includes ministers, directors-general and senior
officials from ministries and departments including Labour, Finance, Trade and
Industry, and Public Works.
Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was established in
terms of the Labour Relations Act of 1995 as a dispute prevention and resolution body.
Although it is publicly funded, it is not controlled by any political party, trade union or
Its policy-making structure is an 11-member governing body comprising three state
representatives, three representatives of organised labour, three representatives of
organised business, a chairperson and the director of the CCMA. It replaced the
The CCMA's main brief is to:
- Mediate to prevent and settle industrial disputes;
- Conciliate workplace disputes;
- Arbitrate disputes that remain unresolved after conciliation; and
- Facilitate the establishment of workplace forums and statutory councils.
selected on the strength of their experience and expertise in
labour matters, particularly relating to dispute prevention and resolution.
The CCMA has offices in major towns in all nine provinces.
Commission for Employment Equity
The focus of employment equity is to create equitable workplaces that are free from
unfair discrimination. South African businesses are legally obliged (under the
Employment Equity Act) to ensure representation of black people, women and people
with disabilities in the workplace.
A statutory body that falls under the Department of Labour, the Commission for
Employment Equity monitors employers who employ 50 or more workers to ensure
- Eliminate unfair employment discrimination by promoting equal opportunity and
- Achieve a diverse workforce that is broadly representative of South Africa’s
The nine-member commission is appointed by Nedlac, and includes a chair and eight
members (two representatives each from the state, organised labour, organised
business and community).
Employment Conditions Commission
The Employment Conditions Commission was established in terms of the Basic
Conditions of Employment Act, which aims to advance economic development and
social justice by regulating the right to fair labour practices.
The commission’s brief is to advise the Labour Minister on any matter concerning
basic conditions of employment and trends in
Productivity SA is a tripartite body of employers, government and labour dedicated to
the development and enhancement of South Africa’s productive capacity through
research, information dissemination, training, facilitation, consultation, auditing and
monitoring all productivity issues and challenges.
National Skills Authority
The National Skills Authority was established in terms of the Skills Development Act
and is made up of representatives from organised business, labour, government and
community organisations. Its main function is to advise the Labour Minister about a
national skills development
strategy and its implementation.
The Act seeks to address the reality of the global economy and the need to increase
skills in the country to improve productivity and the competitiveness of industry,
business, commerce and services. It also looks at ways of making society more
As part of this developmental approach, employers are obliged to contribute a
percentage of their annual payroll towards skills training. The Skills Development
Levy is paid to the SA Revenue Service, the majority of which is distributed to Sector
Training and Education Authorities (SETAs).
Unemployment Insurance Board
The Unemployment Insurance Board advises the Labour Minister on:
Reviewed: 12 April 2013
- Unemployment insurance policy;
- Policies arising out
of the application of the Unemployment Insurance Act;
- Policies for minimising unemployment; and
- The creation of schemes to alleviate the effects of unemployment.