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A critical analysis of the rationale by select trade unions to change their collective bargaining strategy.

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The aim of this study was to investigate the movement of collective bargaining negotiation between employers and employees or trade unions from traditional distributive to integrative. In the current predominant distributive collective bargaining approach, especially in South Africa, the negotiation process is largely adversarial. The alternative to this is the collaborative integrative approach in which problem-solving is used to enlarge the assets that are to be divided between parties, ensuring mutual interest and gain. The parties negotiate on the basis of objective criteria and standards, committing to reaching a solution based on principle and merits of the circumstances, not pressure. The qualitative research methodology was employed in the study, using interviews as the research strategy. The study was conducted among the employers and trade unions which are party to the Metal and Engineering Industries’ Bargaining Council. The target population of the study comprised the five trade unions and 28 employers’ associations which are members of the Steel and Engineering Industries’ Federation of South Africa, the collective bargaining agent in the industry. The sample comprised five trade union representatives and heads of 10 employer associations from among the 28 employer associations, 15 individuals. The study found that the parties, while familiar with integrative bargaining, did not implement it in practice. The parties can move towards integrative bargaining because the law allows them to access the information to be able to use this approach and the kind of information required was shown. The prerequisites for and the steps that the parties would have to go through to be able to use integrative bargaining were identified. Not everyone will necessarily want to adopt integrative bargaining. The study recommends that institutions of higher learning, management training providers and trade union institutes should invest more on education on integrative bargaining. Further research should be undertaken to identify what is required for integrative bargaining to be understood, acceptable and practised in South Africa.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.