The freedom to associate or disassociate is regarded by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as one of four core labour principles. In fact, it goes even further and classifies this as the MOST important labour principle. It is important to identify the role management should play in this process, as the right to associate — or not to associate — rests with the worker. The onus is therefore on the worker to exercise this basic right. The employer must, however, provide the right environment in order for the worker to do this.
Employee participation in the workplace facilitates better communication between employees and management. This also prevents disputes and helps to find solutions for both work and production-related issues. It also has the potential to reflect the voices of those employees who feel left out or are not part of any trade union. Having an employee committee in place ensures employee participation practices that can play a complementary role to promote good relations between management and workforce.
To achieve constructive dialogue through an employee committee, the following is recommended:
- Worker representatives should always be democratically elected by their peers. Management is not allowed to assign employees to the committee.
- Worker representatives should actively promote non-discriminatory behaviour among employees in the business.
- There should be regular meetings between management and worker representatives (it is recommended at least once every three months).
- The details of the worker representatives should be visible in the workplace (e.g. on notice boards in a common/accessible area) to ensure all employees know who their representatives are.
- SIZA recommends management should involve worker representatives in the opening and closing meetings of audits and discuss remediation measures collectively.
For more information on the requirements from the SIZA Social Standard, feel free to visit: https://siza.co.za/standard/social-standard/