A collaborative approach underpins the continued drive by the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) to locate those companies in the sector that are not members and facilitate their access to information and road to compliance that will continue to see the playing fields being levelled.
“Being informed is key for these companies as this will allow them to understand the benefits that the BCCEI will bring to both the employer and the employees,” Lindie Fourie, operations manager of the BCCEI, says.
Fourie, a non-practicing attorney who has specialised in labour law and industrial relations for more than ten years within the civil engineering sector, explains that the on-going drive to recruit companies that are not members of the BCCEI is all about building relationships.
“Historically, bargaining councils have been seen in a negative light and from the outset the BCCEI set to change this perception within the civil engineering sector,” she says.
Becoming a member of the BCCEI is mandatory under legislation, but Fourie says that the BCCEI believes it is far more beneficial to educate those companies that have yet to register and assist them in understanding the major advantages that the BCCEI can bring to their operations.
“The collaborative approach is essential as this will facilitate the retention of relationships,” Fourie says. “This type of partnership approach with the BCCEI is essential – for both employer and employee and applies to companies of all sizes, and is especially important to the smaller contractors and the emerging contractors.”
One of the fears among smaller contractors is that they may not be able to comply with all provision of the collective agreements, and this has been highlighted through discussion with such companies who are not in a position to pay the respective minimum wages.
Fourie explains that one of the major benefits that the BCCEI offers is the level of protection provided to all companies that fall under the scope of BCCEI.
“We have found that there are a lot of companies that are either not aware of the BCCEI or do not understand how the BCCEI can assist them. Once better informed, these contractors typically experience levels of relief from knowing that there is a body that can and will assist them,” she says.
Educating and assisting both employer and employees is important and the BCCEI works with companies to advise and explain that there is an exemption process available to assist them. “We educate, advise how the process works and how to submit an application for exemption.”
All applications for exemption are heard by an exemption board that comprises specialists who are very conscious of the fact that the civil engineering sector is in distress. Fourie is quick to add that there is a delicate balance between the employer and the employee’s respective rights and expectations and that this is where the BCCEI plays an important role.
“The BCCEI cannot ignore non-compliance within the civil engineering sector but we have to be able to apply the sensitivity needed to find an appropriate and equitable solution to exemption applications,” she says.
She does, however, caution companies to make contact with the BCCEI as soon as possible as last minute attempts to obtain exemption are seldom successful.
“It is no use to ignore what is legislated and hope that it will simply go away. Those companies who don’t understand what is required or feel unable to comply must make contact. It is also essential to recognise that the BCCEI is impartial and able to assist both employer and employee.”
“What is most significant is that the BCCEI has not issued a single compliance order as yet, and our teams have gone out of their way to educate and assist companies in reaching compliance and bringing them aboard.
The BCCEI Compliance Department is the engine room of the bargaining council, and it is the success of this department that will make or break the council. Fourie says that the current approach to compliance is part of the strategy to level the playing field by ensuring that all companies in the civil engineering sector have access to the appropriate and correct information.
It is for this reason that the BCCEI is committed to investing in the education and training of its agents to ensure that they are equipped with mediation and facilitation skills.
“In most cases, it is the BCCEI agent in the field that interfaces with both the employer and the employees and these carefully selected individuals understand the definitive vision of the BCCEI and are aligned with our collaborative stance,” Fourie says.
There are currently five collective agreements, concluded under the auspices of the BCCEI, in place between the employee representatives, BCAWU (Building, Construction and Allied Workers Union) and NUM (National Union of Mineworkers), and the employer representative, SAFCEC (South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors).
All companies within the civil engineering sector must be compliant with the collective agreements, and the BCCEI is responsible for investigating any requests, queries or complaints pertaining to issues relative to these collective agreements.
Fourie says most queries are related to understanding the collective agreements, questions about the levies that need to be deducted or about the dispute resolution process. The BCCEI also facilitates training for HR departments at companies and this is normally done in conjunction with various levels of management and employees.
“We have found that with understanding and knowledge compliance becomes an easy process for companies,” Fourie concludes.
MORE ABOUT BCCEI
The Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) was registered at the Department of Labour on 7 December 2012. Completely independent, the BCCEI is a statutory body bound by the Labour Relations Act (LRA), Act 66 of 1995 and the process it follows is mandatory and legislated.