The successful signing of a substantive collective agreement to extend the civil engineering industry Wage and Task Grade and Conditions of Employment collective agreements for three years until the end of August 2021 and the Registration and Administration and Construction Industry Retirement Benefit Fund Collective Agreement for five years to 31 August 2023 demonstrated the value of industry stakeholders working closely over time in a relationship of trust, according to Nick Faasen, general secretary of the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI).
Faasen says that the agreements were signed on 18 June 2018 between The Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO) and South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC), representing the employers, and the Building, Construction and Allied Workers Union (BCAWU) and National Union of Mine Workers (NUM), representing the employees.
The BCCEI provides the platform for the employer and employee organisations to negotiate. Faasen emphasises that the preparation for this work takes years involving intensive training, expert input and specialised facilitation.
“For negotiations to be successful, the parties must develop trust alongside an in-depth and common understanding of the real issues facing their sector,” he says. “This was especially vital given the dire straits in which the civil engineering industry finds itself; a very delicate balance was required from the negotiators if they were to ensure the survival of the sector.”
Labour unions and employer bodies agreed in June to a 7,5% wage increase across the board for the next two years, and an increase in the third year of 7,5% or CPI, whichever is the greater. These adjustments would also affect allowances such as living-out, cross-border, sleep out and night-work allowances.
Faasen described the outcome of the negotiations as ‘mature’, and paid tribute to the expertise and constructive attitudes that the negotiators have developed in the years leading up to the settlement agreement. He says the BCCEI had arranged training early on in the three-year cycle with the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), and also with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The engagement process between the parties was then further facilitated by Conflict Dynamics, who provided two facilitators to take the empowerment journey into the negotiations.
“This approach represents a significant departure from the conventional, adversarial approach adopted in most industrial relations engagements,” says Faasen. “It has certainly shown its value in this sector, which has avoided strikes for many years despite very trying economic conditions.”
Nick Faasen, general secretary of the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI), says industry stakeholders working closely over time in a relationship of trust during the recent industry negotiations.