Labour Law in a Nutshell January 2019

LABOUR LAW in a Nutshell: What to expect in 2019?


The upcoming elections will turbo charge the levels of populist rhetoric and activity in both public and private workplaces.  Competition between the pro-poor and left leaning Saftu versus its former comrades, the ANC aligned and more moderate Cosatu will intensify in the media and public demonstrations.  This could spill over into inter-union rivalry conflict in the workplace.

New Labour Political Party

The Saftu-led mass action planned for March will propel the 27% crisis of unemployment – especially the 40% youth component – onto the national election agenda as the number one priority. It will test the political punching power of the newly created Numsa created Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party.

Gold & Platinum Mining

The 6 week strike and escalating conflict at Sibanya’s gold mines involving 15 000 striking workers is set to spread to another 12 000 workers at Sibanya’s platinum mines. Amcu is upping the ante as it presses ahead with its plans for a sympathy strike to force Sibanya’s hand in wage negotiations. Its demand for a R1000 per month increase tops Num’s settlement of R700 per month. There’re worrying signs of trouble to come as the union rivalry for top dog status in the mining sector intensifies.

New Labour Regulations

The government rolled out a raft of new labour regulations in December and January 2019. They include –

  • The National Minimum Wage (NMW);
  • Amendments to the LRA and BCEA;
  • NMW exemption regulations;
  • New Picketing regulations;
  • Revised BCEA regulations;
  • Secret ballot guidelines;
  • New Code of Good Practice on Collective Bargaining, Industrial Action and Picketing;
  • Gender neutral parental leave was promulgated.

The regulations pave the way for the implementation of the National Minimum Wage and the LRA Amendments designed to put the brakes on violence during strike action. The details of how to put all these new rules into action will consume much time for already busy of HR and IR practitioners.

The upside is that we can expect the new strike rules to deliver on their desired effects to reduce the number of strikes and to help those which do happen to more peaceful and orderly. The need for a strike ballot should make the difference here.  

New Types of Disputes

We can expect the CCMA to be inundated with national minimum wage disputes. It can expect to receive over 200 000 new disputes to deal with in the year ahead. This astonishing volume of disputes is a fair indicator of the troubled state of labour relations in our country. And the Labour Court is likely to have its hands full dealing with interdicts and disputes relating to the new rules on strike action.


The pressure on the country to deal with the unemployment and jobless growth problem is extreme. It will require employers, workers and unions to work together in individual workplaces to at least protect the jobs they have.

Better still, with goodwill and more common purpose they can create new jobs – even if one at a time – to make a difference in each workplace.  Let’s hope the new rules of engagement and a dose of the “new dawn” will be put to good use to achieve these urgent outcomes.

Patrick Deale

Labour Lawyer & Mediator