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LABOUR LAW & RELATIONS: What to expect in 2019?

In short – a lot!!


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.

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 NMW disputes. And the Labour Court is likely to have its hands full dealing with interdicts 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 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
Patrick Deale
Patrick has worked in law and alternative dispute resolution for 25 years in a wide range of industries and sectors. As a senior legal executive for a listed company, he gained first-hand experience of the issues business managers and employees deal with day-to-day.

Patrick co-founded Tokiso Dispute Settlement (Pty) Ltd in 2000, the largest private dispute resolution agency in the country, where he was full-time CEO for six years. He is a highly skilled and experienced labour negotiator, mediator, arbitrator and facilitator. He is a commercial mediator, coach and assessor, accredited by CEDA (UK). He also serves as Acting Judge of the Labour Court.

He is the co-author of the Labour Relations Handbook, published by Juta, and has been a regular host of the Labour Line on Talk Radio 702. Patrick established Deale Attorneys to focus on the opportunity to improve and build successful South African business relationships, in partnership with business clients.

Deale Attorneys is a specialist labour & commercial mediation firm with offices in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal.
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