Judgment on MEIBC tomorrow
THE LABOUR Court will tomorrow hand down a judgment that will pave the way for whether or not the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) should be placed under administration. The administrator will be responsible for facilitating discussions for the first levy increase in more than five years among members of the troubled MEIBC.
Trade Union Solidarity on Friday approached the court to place the MEIBC under business rescue in a bid to save the council from bankruptcy.
Should the court rule in favour of Solidarity’s application, it will set a precedent for distressed bargaining councils as it means that they will be placed under administration instead of being liquidated. The Labour Relations Act does not provide relief for financially unstable bargaining councils, Paul Kennedy, SC, for Solidarity told Acting Judge Sean Snyman in the Labour Court on Friday.
“There is reason to believe that the reason why it (MEIBC) cannot function can be remedied through the introduction of an administrator,” said Kennedy. “There must be scope for seeking remedy to the problem,” he said.
The MEIBC is critical in dispute resolutions to its 10 000 member companies that employ about 340 000 people in the metals industry.
However, Solidarity ‘s deputy general secretary, Marius Croucamp, said that MEIBC’s financial position had deteriorated over time to such an extent that it could no longer perform its dispute resolution function.
“This is a landmark case which will bring relief to struggling bargaining councils and ensure that they are not liquidated,” said Croucramp.
Members of MEIBC did not agree on a number of issues including that unions and employers were at loggerheads over the levy increase.
There was also a lot of tension between the MEIBC and its member the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) which represented small businesses in the industry.
Neasa has challenged in court all MEIBC collective agreements, including agreements to increase levies which is the only council source of income. It also succeeded in setting aside all gazetted agreement based on technicalities. The last time MEIBC levy was increased was in 2011, and it had been operating with the 2011 budget for the past five years.