Understanding workplace forums


Workplace forums may be formed when there are more than 100 workers.  They promote the interests of the workers by consulting and making joint decisions. 

Employers must provide relevant information to workplace forums.

The functions of a workplace forum are to

  • Promote the interests of all workers (not only trade union members)
  • Enhance workplace efficiency
  • Consult with the employer
  • Take part in decision-making

A workplace forum has the right to be consulted by the employer on

  • Restructuring and new work methods
  • Partial or total plant closure
  • Mergers and ownership transfers
  • Retrenching workers
  • Job grading
  • Criteria for merits and bonuses
  • Education and training
  • Product development plans
  • Export promotions
  • Health and safety measures

Joint Decision-Making

Unless otherwise agreed in a collective agreement, an employer must consult the workplace forum before applying

  • Disciplinary codes and procedures
  • Workplace rules of conduct
  • Measures to monitor unfair discrimination 
  • Changes to rules of social benefit schemes

Employer’s Duties

An employer must provide all the information that will allow a workplace forum to consult and make joint decisions effectively.

An employer does not have to provide information that

  • Is legally privileged
  • Violates any law or court order
  • May harm a worker or the employer
  • Is personal to a worker, unless the worker permits it and confirms this permission in writing.

General functions of workplace forum

A workplace, forum established in terms of the act

  • Must seek to promote the interests of all employees in the workplace, whether or not they are trade union members
  • Must seek to enhance efficiency in the workplace
  • Is entitled to be consulted by the employer, with a view to reaching consensus, about the matters referred to in section 84
  • Is entitled to participate in joint decision-making about the matters referred to in section 86.

 

Specific matters for consultation (Section 84)

Unless the matters for consultation are regulated by a collective agreement with the representative trade union, a workplace forum is entitled to be consulted by the employer about proposals relating to any of the following matters 

  • Restructuring in the workplace, including the introduction of new technology and new work methods 
  • Changes in the organisation of work 
  • Partial or total plant closures 
  • Mergers and transfers of ownership in so far as they have an impact on the employees 
  • The dismissal of employees for reasons based on operational requirements (Retrenchments) 
  • Exemptions from any collective agreement or any law 
  • Job grading 
  • Criteria for merit increases or the payment of discretionary bonuses 
  • Education and training (Training or Skills Development Committee) 
  • Product development plans 
  • Export promotion.

A bargaining council may confer on a workplace forum the right to be consulted about additional matters in the workplace that fall within the registered scope of the bargaining council.

A representative trade union and an employer may conclude a collective agreement conferring on the workplace forum the right to be consulted about any additional matters in the workplace.

Any other law may confer on a workplace forum the right to be consulted about additional matters e.g. HIV/AIDS committee

Subject to any applicable occupational health and safety legislation, a representative trade union and an employer may agree (Health and Safety Committee) 

  • That the employer must consult with the workplace forum with a view to initiating, developing, promoting, monitoring and reviewing measures to ensure health and safety at work  
  • That a meeting between the workplace forum and the employer constitutes a meeting of a health and safety committee required to be established in the workplace by that legislation
  • That one or more members of the workplace forum are health and safety representatives for the purposes of that legislation     

Joint decision-making (Section 86)

Unless the matters for joint decision-making are regulated by a collective agreement with the representative trade union, an employer must consult and reach consensus with a workplace forum before implementing any proposal concerning 

  • Disciplinary codes and procedures
  • Rules relating to the proper regulation of the workplace in so far as they apply to conduct not related to the work performance of employees
  • Measures designed to protect and advance persons disadvantaged by unfair discrimination
  • Changes by the employer or by employer-appointed representatives on trusts or boards of employer-controlled schemes, to the rules regulating social benefit schemes

Any other law may confer on a workplace forum the right to participate in joint decision-making about additional matters.

If the employer does not reach consensus with the workplace forum, the employer may

  •  Refer the dispute to arbitration in terms of any agreed procedure or 
  • If there is no agreed procedure, refer the dispute to the Commission.

Note

It is worth bearing in mind that the formation of workplace forums in itself is not sufficient. Employers must ensure the members are adequately trained and understand their function, duties and responsibilities.

The forum should be given a written mandate and should in addition operate under a formal constitution.

Some of the more common forums are

  • General workplace forum –covers most issues and areas of interest to employees
  • HIV/AIDS committee – deals with issues related to HIV and AIDS
  • Health and safety committee
  • Training or Skills Development committee
  • Employment Equity committee

© Des Squire (Managing Member)

AMSI and ASSOCIATES cc

Cell 0828009057 – des@amsiandassociates.co.za

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