Statutory Councils

A statutory council is a body established under the Labour Relations Act, 1995, in an area or sector of industry where no bargaining councils exists.

Statutory Councils

Source: Reader’s Digest’s You and Your Rights

Regulation of labour relations in industry

A statutory council is a body established under the Labour Relations Act, 1995, in an area or sector of industry where no bargaining councils exists.

Functions of statutory councils are to:

· Perform dispute resolutions (see disputes at work);
· Promote and establish training and education schemes;
· Establish and administer pension, provident, medical aid, sick pay, holiday, unemployment schemes or funds and any similar schemes or funds for the benefit of one or more parties to the council;
· Conclude collective agreements to give effect to any of the above-mentioned functions.
A statutory council may agree to perform other functions of a bargaining council in terms of its constitution.
Establishing a council

The Registrar of Labour Relations may be asked to establish a statutory council by:

  • A representative trade union which, on its own or together with another union, has at least 30 per cent of the employees in a sector and area as members; or
  • A representative employers’ organisation whose members employ at least 30 per cent of the employees in a particular sector or area.

If the registrar is satisfied that the applicant is representative of the sector or area as determined by NEDLAC[1] or the Minister of Labour; and if there is no other council registered in the same sector or area, a notice will be published in the government gazette.

This will invite registered trade unions and employers’ associations and interested persons in the sector or area to attend a meeting to decide on a constitution and to nominate representatives to the council.

The application will be granted if every registered trade union and employers’ organisation which should be included is part of the agreement, and if the representatives on the council are proportionally representative of the members. If no agreement is reached, separate meetings are held with unions and employers’ organisations to decide on who the parties to the council should be and how the parties will be represented on the council.

If no agreement is reached at these meetings, the minister will appoint members and will appoint an even number of representatives for each side. If a statutory council consists only of employers’ organisations or of trade unions, the minister will appoint representatives in consultation with the commission for conciliation, mediation and arbitration (CCMA).

A statutory council’s right to perform its functions is subject to an annual review of how representative it is of the entire area which falls within its registered scope, even if its member trade unions or employers’ organisations have no members in part of that area.

An existing registered statutory council may apply to have its status changed to that of a bargaining council if it meets the necessary conditions and criteria. A collective agreement which is reached in a statutory council is binding on its members and the council may ask the minister to extend the agreement to all parties which fall within the registered scope of the council, whether they are members or not. (See collective agreements.)

Wage Act determinations

A statutory council which is not sufficiently representative of the area and sector in which it is registered may submit a collective agreement to the minister who will treat it as a recommendation made by the wage board in terms of the Wage Act. The recommendation may be adopted as a determination which applies to the entire sector or area subject to the provisions of the Act. The determination must make provision for an independent body to consider exemptions from the determination using fair criteria. A determination may also impose a levy on all employers and employees within the registered scope of the council to defray the operating costs of the council. Disputes about determinations may be referred to the CCMA.




The National Economic, Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) was established in 1994 to facilitate the co-ordination and integration of economic, labour and social policies. Significant issues in any of these areas have to be referred to the council. NEDLAC comprises representatives from organised business, organised labour, organisations of community and development interests, and the state.

NEDLAC features in the implementation of the Labour Relations Act, 1995. Among other things, it has the power to demarcate areas and sectors in which particular bargaining councils or statutory councils may operate and it develops codes of good practice on labour matters. Although these codes are recommendations, they carry weight in the adjudication of disputes in the workplace.

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