By Mark Mfikoe, ECA(SA) National Director
The anticipated delay in the publication of the Electrical Industry Collective agreement has happened. The parties to the collective agreement entered into by the ECA(SA) and SAEWA had to plan to ensure that should the agreement not be published by 1 March 2023, we would allow it to rule from the womb. Its rules before its birth only take effect after its birth. Should the collective agreement be published, it will have a retrospective effect on some conditions of employment.
Should the agreement be published in May 2023, agreed applicable increases will be payable on the date of publication but backdated to 1 February 2023. This effective backdating will only be applicable to the hourly wages and will not affect the social security benefits.
The industry’s social security benefits include the Sick Benefit Fund, Death Benefit, Funeral Benefit and Income Replacement Benefit (Disability Benefit). No backdating will occur in relation to these. The no-backdating rule applies both to the payment of benefits as well as the contribution of premiums.
When it comes to the payment of wages for scheduled employees, the agreement dictates that for every month by which the publication is delayed, there will be an additional 0.733% payable on top of the agreed percentage on the minimum wages. We arrive at this percentage by dividing 8.8% by 12. The backdated increase on the actual wages is 0.65% for every month that the collective agreement is not published. We arrive at this figure by dividing 7.8% by 12. This backdating is however not indefinite.
You can only adjust the delay by up to four months. Should the agreement be more than four months late, the backdating will be limited only to the four months and any period beyond the four months will not be covered by the recovery provisions. The agreement itself will not be backdated. What will be backdated is the effect of the increases. We know this before the agreement is published. This is because even before it is born, the agreement has already expressed itself on how it will deal with the period during which it was yet to be born.
Of course, the converse is also true. The agreement that is about to take effect has been agreed to be a six-year agreement. Each month by which its publication is delayed, reduces its anticipated life by that month. This scenario that we are living now was fully catered for during negotiations.
We are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the collective agreement is published as soon as possible. We are also preparing training material so as we can familiarise the industry with all the provisions thereof. This training will be provided free to the industry. The great thing about the agreement is that knowledge gained around its implementation will remain relevant for the life of the agreement.
In conclusion, we are honour bound as an association to do what we can to ensure that the agreement is complied with. Blatant attempts to circumvent the effect of the agreement undermines collective bargaining and as an organisation committed to collective bargaining, we must support all attempts to ensure that the agreement is complied with.
We cannot complain when the Department of Employment and Labour is slack in enforcing Labour Legislation and embrace those amongst us that flout the agreement that our members gave us a mandate to negotiate.
Once the negotiations are done, the outcome is our agreement. We own it. We protect it. It is called integrity.