By Mark Mfikoe, ECA(SA) National Director

The six-year Main Collective Agreement has now been published by the Minister of Employment and Labour – and the NBCEI Wage Schedules for Regions A, B, C and D can be downloaded from the ECA website. The Agreement takes effect from 29 May 2023 and with it, changes to the employment conditions commence immediately. The Bargaining Council held webinars for all the regions in May 2023 to create awareness for the industry stakeholders as to which are the most important of these changes. I will touch on some of these in this article. In the next two months, the ECA will be presenting physical and hybrid seminars to talk to members and non-members about these changes and what they mean for the employer.

Leave bonus pay provisions

These provisions have changed radically. The qualifying period in any given calendar year remains the same in that the employee must work 200 shifts with the same employer for him or her to qualify for leave bonus. Of these, 18 days may be sick leave. For as long as the employee qualifies for leave bonus, the days that will be used to calculate such leave bonus shall be 16, provided the employee was not, at the time the agreement was published, entitled to more days.

Should an employee who was entitled to more days, change employers, he/she will be entitled to 16 days of entitlement to leave bonus with the new employer. From an employer point of view, every employee who was entitled to less than 16 days leave bonus days, such employee immediately moves to 16 days and any new employee gets 16 days’ on qualifying for leave bonus. Should an employee be absent without authority under specific circumstances, they will lose days of entitlement to leave bonus. If an employee is absent without authority for the first time, such absence without authority will not affect the leave bonus days. Any subsequent day’s absence without authority within the next consecutive 10 weeks from the first day’s absence without authority, will reduce the leave bonus days by an equivalent number of such days of absence without authority.

Please keep records. This was a hard sell and a big gain for employers. The same provisions apply to employees who are absent from work due to illness. The big consideration is that employees who are always at work and contributing to productivity and profitability must participate fully in the leave bonus provisions. It is up to the employer to ensure that such employees are productive and contribute to profitability when they are at work. If they are not productive, it is the prerogative of every employer to manage their performance. Do not wait for the bonus day to manage lack of performance – do it when it happens and catch it early.  Please note that these provisions are applicable for the last seven months of the year 2023. For the first five months – namely January to May 2023 – the provisions contained in the expired Main Collective Agreement apply.

Wage schedules

The Bargaining Council has prepared wage schedules, and these are published in this magazine for each wage area in all the regions of the Bargaining Council. These show what the employees will be paid as the published minimum wages, the wage tiers as well as the adjustments that need to be made, the deductions for the social security benefit funds (Pension Fund, Provident Fund, Sick Benefit Fund, Risk Benefits) as well as the catch-up percentages. It is important that employers familiarise themselves with the changes and take special note of the fact that deductions are now based on wages actually earned.

You will notice that 29 May 2023 is the commencement of the march to 3 wage tiers. This march will move at a maximum prescribed pace of 1.75%. The only time that the pace would be slower than 1.75% is when that step means the target rate will be reached by a slower step. The aim is not to pass the targeted rate but only to reach it. If the next step to reach your targeted rate requires an adjustment of 1.02%, by way of an example, that’s all the adjustment you make and you move at the normal pace with the areas in the target you have arrived at.

This is a brand-new provision and will require some practice, education and adjustments. We will be teaching the collective agreements within the next two months all over the country because it is important that we understand where we are, where we are going and how we plan to get there.

Duration of the Main Collective Agreement

This agreement will commence on 29 May 2023 and will expire at the end of February 2029. It is the longest wage agreement I know of in the Republic, and it should give us stability in one of the notoriously unstable components of business, namely labour. Your knowledge of this collective agreement today will remain fresh and relevant for six years. It is a wonderful investment as a practitioner of Industrial Relations or HR for you to attend training in this regard as the knowledge gained will remain useful for an unusually long time.

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