Representivity: The Achilles heel of bargaining councils

  • Maggie Holtzhausen University of South Africa
Keywords: bargaining councils, representation, representivity, extension of agreements, centralised collective bargaining, collective agreements, trade unions, employers’ organisations


The legislative requirement of representivity of parties to bargaining councils remains one of the main challenges these institutions face. When trade unions and/or employers’ organisations are deemed to be unrepresentative, this could lead to the ultimate collapse of the council, or result in collective agreements not being extended to non-parties – thereby defeating the purpose of centralised collective bargaining. This research has thrown light on representation levels by demonstrating that they are not stagnant, but change constantly. The research indicates that today private sector councils especially are often faced with unrepresentative parties, mainly because of economic and political challenges and significant changes in the world of work. Examples are given of how councils deal with these challenges, if at all. The research indicates that even though representivity remains a huge challenge for councils, collective agreements are still in the main extended to non-parties. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the extension of agreements has been challenged. This article therefore throws light on and improves our understanding of non-representivity matters in certain bargaining councils, and by extension our understanding of non-representivity in other bargaining councils as well. It concludes with certain recommendations. Hence, this article contributes to existing knowledge by providing a more inclusive and integrated view of non-representivity and its consequences, thereby enriching the broader employment relations management context.