What is the principle behind a condition at work?


What is the principle behind a condition at work?

Conditions at work always have a principle of wellbeing, fairness or a social value that underpins them. This principle forms the foundation of arguments in negotiations. For example, a negotiation about allowances is not just about pay. It is about recognising that some workplaces and some types of work put special demands on workers, and that special allowances should be made for these special demands. In a similar way, a negotiation about hours of work is not just about pay. It is also about limiting extraordinary hours and compensating workers for anti-social hours of work, like late-trading, weekends and public holidays. Those who work at night and on weekends lose out on opportunities to participate in important family, community and cultural events.

What are conditions at work?

Conditions at work are rules and conditions of service that apply to workers in policy and in practice. Some rules and conditions might be unwritten or even unspoken, even though they are accepted and enforced.

15 main types of conditions at work and their value

1. Allowances

Examples: Shift, fridge, danger, travel, living out, standby, acting and transport allowances.

Principle in negotiations

  • Recognise that certain workplaces and types of work make special demands on workers and that special allowances should be made for this.

2. Forms of employment

Examples: Favouring permanent full-time jobs and regulating parttime, temporary employment, limited duration contract and casual work.

Principle in negotiations

  • Recognising different types of employment, but understanding that all need security and stability in employment.
  • Promoting pay and benefit equity for the different forms of employment.

3. Discrimination

Examples: Clauses in agreements that promote the participation of women and men in trade union life and in work life; Processes for dealing with discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Principle in negotiations

  • Recognising discriminatory policy and practice in the workplace.
  • Recognising and valuing the needs of women and men at work.
  • Recognising and valuing differences in sexual identity and orientation in the context of work.

4. Health and safety at work

Examples: Designated health and safety representatives with duties and powers; Evaluating hazards in the workplace

Principle in negotiations

  • Maintaining and promoting worker health and safety in the workplace and in the course of workers’ duties.

5. Hours of work

Examples: Overtime, guaranteed minimum hours, short-time, averaging of hours, compressed working week, and shift work.

Principle in negotiations

  • To provide enough guaranteed hours of work for decent pay.
  • To provide a regular schedule of hours of work to allow workers to plan for the fulfilment of family responsibilities and the opportunity to participate in established social and cultural events.
  • To limit hours of work so that workers may rest, rejuvenate and stay safe.
  • Compensating workers for anti-social hours of work (late-trading, weekends and public holidays).

6. Leave

Examples: Annual leave, sick leave, family responsibility leave, parental leave, maternity leave and shop stewards’ leave.

Principle in negotiations

  • Leave, in all its forms, is a very important indicator of the well being of workers and in establishing a balance between work and life.
  • It could mean having time to rest, time to recover from illness, or time to participate in important private, cultural and community events.

7. Legal norms and minimums

Examples: Basic Conditions of Employment Act, National Minimum Wage Act, Sectoral determinations, Bargaining Councils, and Labour Relations Act

Principle in negotiations

  • References to the existing laws which establish minimum conditions and codes of good practice.

8. Parental rights

Examples: Maternity rights and benefits, paternity leave, parental leave, family responsibility leave, leave for antenatal and postnatal check-ups.

Principle in negotiations

  • Recognising, valuing and sharing the responsibility of raising our children.

9. Pay

Examples: Wages, annual increases, allowances, overtime, regular and reliable monthly wages.

Principle in negotiations

  • Compensation for labour and time.

10. Security

Examples: Secure employment, reliable wages, decent pay, medical benefits and retirement savings.

Principle in negotiations

  • To provide some security of employment (duration) and security in employment (measures that help protect workers from financial shocks resulting from retrenchment, retirement, death and disability).

11. Retrenchment

Example: Labour Relations Act, 2018, Section 189

Principle in negotiations

  • To protect workers from disguised dismissal on the basis of operational requirements and to support workers facing retrenchment.

12. Training and progression

Examples: Study leave, bursaries, financial support for further education, skills programmes and a skills development plan.

Principle in negotiations

  • Creating opportunities for learning and better pay and conditions of work.

13. Technology

Examples: Remote work – The right to disconnect (from time-to-time from online platforms and applications), transparency and fairness in automation and management by algorithms, and the arrangement of shift work.

Principle in negotiations

  • Dealing with new technology in the workplace and the implications for worker health, work intensity, accountability, transparency and fairness.

14. Trade union rights

Examples: Leave for shop stewards to attend to trade union matters, facilities for shop stewards, the right to communicate with workers and access to workers.

Principle in negotiations

  • Provide a rational and consistent framework for regulating the relationship between the union and the employer. This gives effect to workers’ rights to freedom of association.

15. Transport

Examples: Safe transport arrangements, hours of work that promote safe travel, subsidising transport costs for workers.

Principle in negotiations

  • Recognising the spatial politics of post-Apartheid South Africa and making allowances for the challenges many workers face travelling to and from work, including the danger that travel poses to workers who are on the roads in order to perform their jobs.

Related resource:

Related article:

A personal perspective on parental leave


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