Why Join A Union?

Trade unions are independent organisations that represent workers to their employers. If you join a trade union, you are joining a group that will negotiate workplace issues such as salary, hours of work, and other conditions, on your behalf.

Who can join a Trade Union?

In South Africa, according to Section 23: Labour Relations in the Constitution, every worker has the right to join a trade union. Trade unions are an important force in South Africa, with 3.1 million members representing 25% of the formal work force. The specific labour laws regarding trade unions are:

  • Every worker has the right to form and join a trade union and to participate in the union’s activities
  • Every worker has the right to strike
  • Every employer has the right to form and join an employers’ organisation and to participate in the activities of the organisation
  • Every trade union, employers’ organisation and employer has the right to engage in collective bargaining
  • Everyone has the right to fair labour practices

What are the benefits of joining a Trade Union?

Workers who join a trade union have the benefit of being part of an organised group who pull together around workplace issues. Topics ranging from paid maternity leave to salary increases to safety in the workplace are all dealt with as a group. You don’t have to tackle them on your own, as an individual. You also stand to get better protection from unfair treatment and victimisation and increased job security.

You also have the benefit of skilled negotiators and trained labour specialists who will strive to get the best possible deal for workers in their workplaces.

Unions can also help with other aspects of working life such as accompanying you to a disciplinary hearing and representing you if you’re in dispute with your employers.

Some unions run training, professional development and networking events.

How can you join a Trade Union?

The best way would be to find out if there is a shop steward or other union representative in your workplace. Make contact, find out what the conditions are for joining, and also find out what the union has achieved in the past couple of years. Be informed before you sign up.

What can Union Representatives do?

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) allows a registered union or a sufficiently representative union to:

  • Enter an employer’s premises to recruit or communicate with members
  • Hold meetings with employees outside working hours
  • Conduct union elections or ballots at the workplace
  • Instruct the employer to make deductions of and pay over union membership subscriptions from member employees
  • Organise reasonable leave, including possible paid leave, for their office bearers

What are the major Trade Unions in South Africa?

Most of the trade unions in South Africa are affiliated to one of the three main trade union centres. This means that if you join a trade union at work, no matter if you are in catering, nursing, mining, teaching or any other work sector, it will most likely be affiliated to a specific trade union centre.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is the largest of the three with a membership of 1.8 million, and is part of the Tripartite alliance with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

What is a Bargaining Council?

Bargaining councils are formed by registered trade unions and employers’ organisations. They deal with collective agreements, attempt to solve labour disputes, and make proposals on labour policies and laws. They may also manage pension funds, sick pay, unemployment and training schemes, and other such benefits for their members.

What is a Collective Agreement?

A collective agreement is an agreement between employers and employees which regulates the terms and conditions of employees in their workplace. It also manages their duties and the duties of the employer. It is usually the result of a process of collective bargaining between an employer and a trade union representing workers.

It is a legally enforceable instrument, which generally lasts as long as each parties’ bargaining cycles. However, it could also be a long-lasting agreement, or one which is terminated after reasonable notice by either party.

What are Strikes and Lockouts?

The right to strike is entrenched in Section 23 of the Constitution. Employers have a reciprocal right to lockout, which is also in the constitution.

The LRA defines a strike as:

  • A partial or complete refusal to work or the obstruction of work by employees for the purpose of remedying a grievance or resolving a dispute

The LRA defines a lockout as:

  • An exclusion by the employer of the employees from the workplace in order to compel the employees to accept a demand regarding a matter of mutual interest

While strikes and lockouts are legal, a very strict procedure must be followed in order to ensure they are protected. This includes first referring the dispute for conciliation, then undergoing a waiting period, and finally giving notice of the strike.

In a protected strike or lockout:

  • Workers or employees are guaranteed immunity from the reaches of the civil law i.e. they do not constitute a breach of contract
  • An employer is not obliged to remunerate an employee for services not rendered during a strike
  • Employees are protected from dismissal

In an unprotected strike or lockout:

  • The affected party can approach the Labour Court for an interdict or order restraining a strike or lockout
  • The Labour Court can also order the payment of just and equitable compensation in the circumstances
  • Participation in an unprotected strike may constitute a fair reason for dismissal

Can you strike if you work in an essential service?

No. Section 65 (1) (d) of the LRA prohibits strikes and lockouts in essential services and maintenance services. An essential service is one which, if interrupted, could endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the nation, the parliamentary service and South African Police Services. This would include medical staff and police staff.

Source: mywage

CCMA Assistance

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is an independent body that is not controlled by any business, political party or trade union. It is a dispute reconciliation body, set up in terms of the Labour Act.

What can the CCMA do for me?

If you are an employee in dispute with your employer, or vice versa, over a matter such as:

  • Dismissal
  • Wages and working conditions
  • Workplace changes
  • Discrimination

You may want to ask the CCMA to conciliate or even arbitrate your dispute. A union or employers’ organisation may also initiate this action. You do not need the other party’s consent before taking a matter to the CCMA.

Do I pay for this service?

No. It is free.

What steps do I take  for referring disputes to the CCMA?

Step 1: If you have a labour problem, it is very important that you take steps immediately. In the case of an unfair dismissal dispute, you have only 30 days from the date on which the dispute arose to open a case. With discrimination cases, you have six months.

Step 2: If you have decided to lodge a dispute, you need to complete a CCMA case referral form, also known as a LRA Form 7.11. These forms are available from the CCMA offices, DOL offices and the CCMA website. (www.ccma.org.za). The CCMA call centre number is: 0861 16 16 16 if you want to find out where regional offices are, or other information.

Step 3: Once you have completed the form, you need to ensure that a copy is delivered to the other party. You must be able to prove that they received a copy. Acceptable methods include faxing a copy (keep the fax transmission slip), sending it by registered mail (keep the postal receipt), send it by courier (keep proof) or deliver in person (ask the person receiving it to sign for it).

Step 4: You do not need to bring the referral form to the CCMA in person. You may also fax the form or post it. Make sure that a copy of the proof that the form had been served on the other party is also enclosed.

Step 5: The CCMA will inform both parties as to the date, time and venue of the first hearing.

Step 6: Usually the first meeting is called a conciliation hearing. Only the parties, trade union or employer organisation representatives (if a party to the dispute is a member) and the CCMA commissioner will attend. The purpose of the hearing is to reach an agreement acceptable to both parties. Legal representation is not allowed.

Step 7: If no agreement is reached, the commissioner will issue a certificate to that effect. Depending on the nature of the dispute, the case may be referred to the CCMA arbitration or the Labour Court as a further step.

Step 8: In order to have an arbitration hearing, you have to complete a request for an arbitration form, also called a LRA Form 7.13. A copy must be served on the other party (same as in step 3). Arbitration should be applied for within three months from the date on which the commissioner issued the certificate.

Step 9: Arbitration is a more formal process and evidence, including witnesses and documents, may be necessary to prove your case. Parties may cross-examine each other. Legal representation may be allowed. The commissioner will make a final and binding decision, called an arbitration award, within 14 days.

Step 10: If a party does not comply with the arbitration award, it may be made an order of the Labour Court.

What disputes can not be handled by the CCMA? 

The following disputes cannot be referred to the CCMA:

  • Where an independent contractor is involved.
  • Where the case does not deal with an issue in the LRA or Employment Equity Act (EEA). (Basic Conditions of Employment Act  (BCEA) issues may be linked to unfair dismissal disputes and unfair retrenchment disputes at the CCMA).
  • Where a bargaining council or statutory council exists for that sector.
  • Where a private agreement exists for resolving disputes (for example: private arbitration).

Source: Mywage

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action in the Workplace in South Africa, What is Affirmative Action in South Africa?, Who Does Affirmative Action Apply To and more on Mywage South Africa

What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action is a way of making the workplace more representative and fair. It makes sure that qualified people from designated groups have equal opportunities in the workplace. In South Africa, these groups are black people (including black, coloured and Indian people), women and people with disabilities. Historically, these groups have been under-represented in many key work areas (and over-represented in others). Affirmative action falls under the Employment Equity Act.

What is the aim of affirmative action?

In South Africa, affirmative action makes sure that qualified designated groups (black people, women and people with disabilities) have equal opportunities to get a job.
They must also be equally represented in all job categories and levels of the workplace.

Practically, how would this reflect in a workplace?

An employer must create an action plan which makes sure it has the right proportion of designated people – black, coloured, Indian, female and disabled people, working in all levels of the organisation. This includes the very top levels of management. For example, if you have 50 members on your board of directors, then you must aim to have approximately 35 black, five coloured, four Indian and five white directors. Of these, 25 should be female and two should be disabled. (With thanks to Labourguide for the figures.)

Where does affirmative action apply?

  • Employers with 50 or more workers, or whose annual income is more than the amount specified in Schedule 4 of the Employment Equity Act
  • Municipalities
  • Organs of State
  • Employers ordered to comply by a bargaining council agreement
  • Any employers who volunteer to comply.

What does an employer need to do to comply?

An employer must put in place affirmative action measures for designated groups to achieve employment equity. They must:

  • Consult with employees
  • Conduct an analysis
  • Prepare an employment equity plan
  • Report to the Director-General on progress made in the implementation of the plan.

Such measures must also include:

  • Identification and removal of barriers with an adverse impact on designated groups
  • The promotion of measures which promote diversity
  • Making reasonable accommodation for people from designated groups
  • Retention, development and training of designated groups (including skills development)
  • Preferential treatment and numerical goals to ensure equitable representation. This excludes quotas.

What else is expected from an employer?

  • Employers must submit reports of their equity figures
  • Employers must conduct studies to identify equity issues.

It is recommended that employers consult a labour law expert for guidance on how to achieve the above goals.

For more detailed information about the above you can visit the Department of Labour website and find the information here.

What happens if an employer does not comply with affirmative action?

Under the Employment Equity Act, the Department of Labour can impose fines and also impose prosecution.

Source: Mywage

Work and Wages

In accordance with the Basic Condition of Employment Act (BCEA), the Minister of Labour may set minimum terms and conditions of employment including minimum wages. There is no single national minimum wage in South Africa. Minimum wages are set at the sectoral level and area level. Minimum wages are set for vulnerable sectors; the sectors, which have low union density or where market wages are quite low. Sectoral determination for setting minimum wages is done in consultation with the Employment Conditions Commission.

Minimum wage is set for the following sectors: domestic work, contract cleaning, private security, wholesale & retail, farm work, forestry, taxi, learnership, hospitality, civil engineering and the work of children in the performance of advertising, artistic and cultural activities. The Employment Conditions Commission advises the Minister of Labour on various issues including sectoral determinations regarding minimum wages. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act requires that while advising the Minister on publication of a sectoral determination, the Commission must consider in respect of the sector and area concerned the ability of the employer to carry on their business successfully; the operation of small, medium or micro enterprises and new enterprises; the cost of living; the alleviation of poverty; conditions of employment; wage differentials and inequality; the likely impact of any proposed condition of employment on current employment or the creation of employment; the possible impact of any proposed conditions of employment on the health, safety or welfare of workers; and any other relevant factor.

After considering the report and recommendations of the Commission, the Minister may make a sectoral determination for one or more sector/s and area/s and provide for the adjustment of remuneration by way of minimum remuneration or minimum increases.

Source: § 54-55 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 1997 (last amended in 2014)

Regular Pay

In accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, wage means the amount of money paid or payable to a worker in respect of ordinary hours of work or, if they are shorter, the hours a worker ordinarily works in a day or week.

The BCEA regulates the payment of wages to all classes of workers. According to this Act, wages can be calculated on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis. An employer is under obligation to pay the worker wages in South African currency (Rand) within seven (7) days after the completion of the wage period for which wages are payable.

Employers are obliged to pay the worker his/her wages during the working hours or within 15 minutes of the commencement or conclusion of those hours at the place of work on an agreed pay day in a sealed envelope, if payment is made in cash (legal tender) or through cheque. Wages may be deposited directly into an account designated by the worker in writing. An employer must not compel a worker to purchase any goods, products or services from the employer or from any business or person nominated by the employer.

A worker’s wage is calculated by reference to the number of hours the employee ordinarily works. In order to calculate the wage rate by time, it must be known that (in order to be entitled to full wage) a worker is required to work 45 hours a week and nine hours a day (seven and a half hours for those working 6 days a week). An employee’s monthly remuneration is four and one-third times the employee’s weekly wage.

Generally, an employer is not allowed to deduct wages unless required or permitted under a written law, collective agreement, court order or arbitration award. Deductions may also be made if a worker agrees in writing to the deduction in respect of a debt or to reimburse the employer for loss or damage caused by the worker.

An employer should provide pay slips to all workers at the workplace during working hours or within 15 minutes of the commencement or conclusion of those hours. It must include the following information:
* The employer’s name and address
* The worker’s name and occupation
* The period for which the payment is made
* The worker’s remuneration in money
* The amount and purpose of any deduction made from the remuneration
* The actual amount paid to the worker.

Relevant to the calculation of that worker’s remuneration, the slip must also contain:
* Information about the worker’s rate of remuneration and overtime rate
* The number of ordinary and overtime hours worked by the worker during the period for which the payment is made
* The number of hours worked by the worker on a Sunday or public holiday during that period
* An agreement to average working time has been concluded, the total number of ordinary and overtime hours worked by the worker in the period of averaging.

Source: § 1 & 32-35 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 1997 (last amended in 2014)(last amended in 2014)


All about Discrimination in the Workplace, Labour Laws and Discrimination, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and Discrimination and more on Mywage South Africa.
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The South African Constitution guarantees the right to equality and also gives protection to all from unfair discrimination. It goes further by acknowledging that affirmative action measures are necessary to advance disadvantaged groups.

What is unfair discrimination?

In accordance with article 09 of the South African Constitution, all persons are equal before law and there can’t be any discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers. Employment Equity Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities and HIV status other than those mentioned above.

Is there fair discrimination?

Yes. The law sets out four grounds on which discrimination is generally allowed:

  • Discrimination based on affirmative action
  • Discrimination based on the inherent requirement of a particular job
  • Compulsory discrimination by law; and
  • Discrimination based on productivity.

What can I do if I have been unfairly discriminated against?

If you feel that you have been unfairly discriminated against, or that an employer has
contravened the laws, you can lodge a grievance with your employer.  If the matter is not
satisfactorily resolved at the workplace, it can be referred to the CCMA within six months
of the unfair discrimination taking place. If the CCMA is not able to resolve the dispute
through conciliation, the matter can either be referred for arbitration (if both parties
agree) or to the Labour Court for adjudication.

Source: Mywage

Social Security Grants

Does the South African government provide social security for citizens in the form of grants?

Yes. Social assistance is provided in the form of social grants from government.

Who administers and pays these grants?

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

What kind of grants are there?

  • Older persons grant
  • Disability grant
  • War veterans grant
  • Care dependency grant
  • Foster child grant
  • Child support grant
  • Grant-in-aid
  • Social Relief of Distress.

What are the criteria for social grants?

Grant for Older Persons

The applicant:

  • Must be a South African citizen /permanent resident
  • Must be resident in South Africa
  • Must be 60 years and spouse must comply with the means test
  • Must not be maintained or cared for in a State Institution
  • Must not be in receipt of another social grant for her/himself
  • Must submit a 13 digit bar coded identity document

War Veteran’s Grant

The applicant:

  • Must be a South African citizen /permanent resident
  • Must be resident in South Africa
  • Must be 60 years and over or must be disabled
  • Must have fought in the Second WorldWar or the Korean War and spouse must meet the requirements of the means test
  • Must not be maintained or cared for in a State Institution
  • Must not be in receipt of another social grant in respect of her/himself

Disability Grant

The applicant:

  • Must be a South African citizen /permanent resident
  • Must be resident in South Africa
  • Must be 18 to 59 years of age
  • Must submit a medical / assessment report confirming disability
  • Medical assessment must not be older than three months at date of application
  • Must meet the requirements of the means test
  • Must not be maintained or cared for in a State Institution
  • Must not be in receipt of another social grant in respect of her/himself

Child Grants

Foster Child Grant

  • The applicant and child must be resident in South Africa
  • There must be a court order indicating foster care status
  • The foster parent must be a South African citizen, permanent resident or refugee
  • The child must remain in the care of the foster parent (s)

Child Support Grant

  • The primary care giver must be a South African citizen or permanent resident
  • Both the applicant and the child must reside in South Africa
  • The applicant must be the primary care giver of the child/children concerned
  • The child/children must have been born after 31 December 1993
  • The applicant and spouse must meet the requirements of the means test
  • An applicant cannot apply for more than six non biological children
  • The Child can not be cared for in a State Institution

Care Dependency Grant

  • The primary care giver must be a South African citizen or permanent resident
  • Both the applicant and the child must reside in South Africa
  • The child must be under the age of 18 years
  • The applicant must submit a medical/assessment report confirming permanent, severe disability
  • The applicant and spouse must meet the requirements of the means test (except for foster parents)
  • The care-dependant child/children must not be permanently cared for in a State Institution


  • The applicant must be in receipt of a grant for Older Persons, Disability grant or aWar Veterans’s grant, and require full time attendandance by another person owing to his/her physical or mental disabilities
  • The applicant must not be cared for in an institution that receives subsidy by the State for the care/housing of such beneficiary

Must all applicants supply proof of identity?

Yes – but there are various ways. Applicants who do not have a 13 digit bar coded identity book, or birth certificate for children involved in the application, can still apply for a grant. Applicants should obtain information from their nearest SASSA office on the alternative documents which are accepted for grant application.

Where does one apply for a grant?

At the SASSA office nearest to where you live (see regional offices listed below). If you are too old or sick to travel to the office, then a family member or friend can apply on your behalf.

Your application form will be completed in the presence of a SASSA officer.

When your application is completed you will be given a receipt. This must not be lost – it is your only proof of application!

Do I pay to apply?


When do I get paid my grant?

If your grant is approved, you will be paid from the date on which you applied.

What if my application is unsuccessful?

You must be informed in writing of the reasons for the refusal of the grant application. You have a right to request the decision to be reconsidered, and a right to appeal within 90 days of notification.

How do I get paid?

You can receive your grant through one of the following methods:

  • Cash payments at designated paypoints
  • Banks including Postbank
  • Institutions

If you are unable to collect the grant yourself you may nominate a procurator to collect it on your behalf.

Can my grant be suspended?

Yes – the following may result in the suspension of a grant:

  • Changes in circumstances (financial and/or medical)
  • Outcome of a review
  • Failure to co-operate when a grant is reviewed
  • Committing a fraudulent activity or misrepresentation
  • Where a grant was approved in error

Source: Mywage