Origin of the Bargaining Council

In 1996 companies in the Maritime Industry were invited by South African Maritime and Safety Association (SAMSA), Department of Labour (DoL) and the International LabourOrganisation(ILO) to attend a conference with the view to amend chapter 4 of the Merchant Shipping Act that deals with conditions of engagement of officers and crew – this act was totally incompatible with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and seafarers were not recognised as employees and had very few rights.

This meeting was aimed mainly at the merchant marines and not at fishers. It was then agreed that the ILO would convene a conference to deal with the specific needs of fishers

This conference was held in 1997 in Cape Town and was attended by most companies in the various sectors of the fishing industry, Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), Trawler and Line Fishermen (TALFU) and Weskus Werkers Unie (WWU) as well as the DoL,SAMSA and the ILO.

Several work groups such as the Deepsea and Bottom Trawl, Tuna and Line Fishing, Squid and Pelagic were formed to investigate and report back on working conditions in their specific sectors. After this exercise was completed, only the majority of companies in the Deepsea and Bottom Trawl fishing agreed to form a Bargaining Council.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and the National Certified Fishing and Allied Workers Union (NCFAWU) opposed the forming of a council exclusively for fishers as these two unions wanted the shore based processing operations included. The argument against this was that shore based workers had the protection of Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). Fishers did not have the protection of the BCEA.

Before application to DoL could be made for the establishment of a Bargaining Council, employers firstly had to establish an employers’ organization. The employers’ organisation known as South African Fishing Industry Employers’ Organisation (SAFIEO) was established in June 2000.

After detailed and lengthy rounds negotiations between SAFIEO and TALFU the constitution of and the application for the establishment of a Bargaining Council was submitted to the DOL.

The Bargaining Council for the Fishing Industry was registered on 14 December 2001.

Irvin & Johnson (I&J), Sea Harvest, Viking, Lusitania and Marpro, together with TALFU became founding members of the Bargaining Council for the Fishing Industry (BCFI). Norman Daniels was appointed as the first Secretary of the council. At the first Executive meeting held on 23 January 2002 Jon Catto, a member of the newly formed employer organisaion, SAFIEO, was elected as the first chairperson to serve on the Bargaining Council.  On 19 March 2003 the Council held its first Annual General Meeting.

On 2 May 2003, a Collective Agreement, which sets out basic conditions of employment for the employees, was published in the Government Gazette. The basic conditions include set daily wages for each category of fisher, set hours of work and regulated rest and leave periods.

After many years of having only two chambers (Deep-sea Bottom Trawl Chamber and Inshore Chamber), the Council had its Constitution approved on 30 March 2011 to include a third chamber, namely the Midwater Trawl Chamber.

The establishment of the Bargaining Council is considered to be a milestone in the history of the South African fishing industry.