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Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Act No. 66 of 1995)


National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry

Main Collective Agreement

Part C : Provisions for the KwaZulu-Natal Region

23. Exemptions



A. For any business entity registered with and falling within the Council's registered scope inasmuch as it relates to the scope of this part of the Agreement


(1) Any business entity, whether a party or a non-party to the Council, which is registered with and falls within the Council's registered scope for the purposes of this part of the Agreement may apply to the Council for exemption from any or all of the provisions of this part of the Agreement.


(2) All applications for exemption shall be made in writing on a prescribed form provided by the Council.


(3) All applications for exemption shall be motivated in accordance with the exemption criteria set out in subclause (7) below; shall be supported by relevant documentation, and in addition, shall set out the following information:
(a) The period for which the exemption is sought;
(b) the number of employees affected and how many of such employees are members of a registered trade union;
(c) the clauses and subclauses of this part of the Agreement from which the exemption is requested.
(d) Satisfactory proof that the applicant has consulted, or will consult, its employees at plant level in respect of the exemption sought, which consultations shall include a registered party trade union, where such union has members employed at the workplace and shall include the response resulting from such consultations.
(e) The demonstrable commercial need of the applicant for the exemption sought.



(a) The General Secretary of the Council or the Regional Secretary of the Regional Chamber concerned, or in their absence any other officer designated by the Executive Committee, shall forthwith refer the full exemption application to the Exemptions Committee, which shall have delegated power to deal with such application on behalf of the Council.
(b) The Exemptions Committee shall consider and determine the application in accordance with the criteria set out in sub-clause (7) below, within 45 days from the date of lodgement of the application with the General Secretary, failing which the application shall be deemed to have been rejected.
(c) The Exemptions Committee may call for any further information or submissions it deems relevant from the applicant, prior to making a decision. The period stipulated in subclause (b) above may be extended by agreement between the applicant and the Committee by the period the applicant takes to furnish the additional information or submissions.
(d) The Exemptions Committee may, after considering the application in terms of the provisions and the criteria contained in this clause, grant, partially grant, or reject such application for exemption, and may impose any conditions on the granting or partial granting of any application it deems fit under the circumstances. If the applicant is not prepared to accept a partial granting of the application or any conditions imposed by the Exemptions Committee, the application shall be deemed to have been refused.
(e) Subject to the time period for considering the application as provided in subclause (b) above, should the Exemptions Committee be unable to agree, the application shall be deemed to have been refused and the reasoning of the members of the Exemptions Committee who wish to reject the application shall constitute the reasons of the Committee for the purposes of subclause 4 (i) below.
(f) The Exemptions Committee shall notify the applicant of its decision within seven days of such decision having been reached.
(g) If the application has been granted or partially granted, the Exemptions Committee shall specify the following in its notification to the applicant:
(i) The conditions, if any, of its approval of the application;
(ii) the period for which the exemption(s) will be valid;
(iii) the clauses or subclauses of this part of the Agreement in respect of which exemption was granted or partially granted; and
(iv) the full name of the exempt employer or employee(s).
(h) Upon receipt of a written request, the Exemptions Committee shall provide brief written reasons for its decision to grant the exemption to any party which has an interest in the matter.
(i) If the application for exemption is rejected or partially approved, the Exemptions Committee shall provide concise written reasons for such rejection or partial approval to the applicant within seven days of its decision: Provided that such reasons given by the Exemptions Committee shall not bind the Independent Exemptions Body (Exemptions Board) in considering any appeal provided for in subclause (5) below since the latter may make a decision on appeal in accordance with such reasons as he or she deems appropriate, subject to the provisions of this clause insofar as it applies to the Independent Exemptions Body.



(a) Any decision of the Exemptions Committee to reject, partially approve or withdraw the application may be referred to appeal to the Independent Exemptions Body (Exemptions Board) hereby established in terms of the Act and the constitution of the Council. Such application shall be lodged within not more than 30 days of the applicant's being notified of the decision of the Exemptions Committee. The Exemptions Board may condone a late appeal on good cause shown.
(b) The Exemptions Board shall have the power to levy a fee payable by the appellant and to determine the amount thereof: Provided that such a fee shall be consistent with —
(i) the cost incurred for the hearing of the appeal; and
(ii) the cost incurred by the Council for the hearing of the appeal where the Exemptions Board is satisfied that such an appeal is without merit.
(c) The Exemptions Board shall also have the power to raise a cost order on the applicant in respect of costs incurred by the parties to the appeal where it is satisfied that it will be proper to do so on the basis that the appeal is so completely without merit that it would be justified in doing so.



(a) The Exemptions Board shall consist of a single independent umpire appointed by the parties from a panel selected for this purpose.
(b) The Exemptions Board shall determine the procedure to be adopted in determining the appeal.
(c) The provisions of subclause (4) above shall, read with the changes required by the context, apply equally to the appeal process.
(d) The Exemptions Board's decision shall be final and binding.


(7) The applicant shall satisfy the Executive Committee of the Council or the Exemptions Committee, and where applicable, the Exemptions Board of the following:
(a) There is a demonstrable commercial need for the exemption.
(b) Competitors covered by the Council that are in compliance with the applicable Council Agreements will not be materially prejudiced by the exemption.
(c) The applicant is not in arrears with respect to payment of Bargaining Council levies or employer or employee contributions and/or trade union/employer subscriptions and/or levy, or, if so, an agreed payment plan exists in respect of any such outstanding monies. Arrears, for this purpose, shall means any payment of Bargaining Council levies or employer or employee or trade union subscriptions that remain unpaid as at the last day of the month following the month in respect of which the payment is due.
(d) No infringement of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act or the Labour Relations Act will result if the exemption is granted, nor does the application if granted, result in a conflict with the primary objectives of the Act.
(e) The exemption will not undermine collective bargaining and labour peace in the Industry.
(f) There has been compliance with subclause (3) above.
(g) The majority of employees affected at the plant are in favour of the proposed exemption if it affects wages, benefit fund contributions, or levies. In such instance, either the employer or the trade union may request that a ballot be conducted.


(8) In addition, the following criteria shall be taken into account by the Exemptions Committee and the Exemptions Board when determining applications for exemptions:
(a) The merits of the written and oral (if any) motivation provided by the applicant, the documentation supporting the application and, in particular, whether the applicant has put up a compelling case for the exemption.
(b) Whether the applicant firm will constitute a viable concern after the expiry of the exemption.
(c) If the exemption sought is from any employee benefit fund, the sufficiency of the alternative benefit proposed by the applicant, including such factors as the cost to the employee, transferability, administration, management, costs, growth and stability. Sufficiency for the purposes of this sub-clause, means that in all material respects the alternative proposed is a least equal to, or better than, the relevant Council benefit fund.
(d) The terms of the exemption sought, including the period for which exemption is sought
(e) Any existing or projected special financial, economic or other circumstances put forward by the applicant as reasons warranting the granting of an exemption, including what economic hardship the applicant will surfer if the applicant is refused: Provided that the Executive committee of the Council or the Exemptions Committee or the Exemptions Board may require the disclosure of such relevant, verifiable information as it deems fit in this regard.
(f) The history of the business entity and/or its shareholders, directors and owners within the Industry, including the period of its operation and in particular whether or not the entity is a new emerging enterprise or a small or medium enterprise (SME); and its history of compliance with Council agreements.
(g) Any representations made by the employees and/or their representatives, including a registered trade union, the Council or Executive Committee or Exemptions Committee and/or the parties to the Council and/or the relevant Regional Chamber of the Council.
(h) Any possible alternatives which may be acceptable to the applicant and/or any other interested party in the circumstances.
(i) The cost, efficiency and administration of any conditions which the Executive Committee of the Council or the Exemptions Committee or the Exemptions Board may feel it necessary to impose.
(j) What cost-saving measures may have been implemented by the applicant other than those in respect of its cost of labour.
(k) What hardship may eventuate to employees in the event of the exemption being granted.
(l) Any relevant time limits contained in the Council's constitution and the Act, and in particular that any exemption or partial granting of an exemption shall be for a fixed, stipulated period.
(m) Any other relevant factors, including any decisions of the Council relevant to exemption applications.



(a) An applicant shall be entitled to apply on the prescribed form to the General Secretary of the Council for the extension of any exemption granted by either the Regional Exemptions Committee or the Exemptions Board. An application for extension shall contain such additional information as may be necessary to substantiate the request with reference to the criteria set out in subclause (7) above.
(b) The procedure and requirements for considering and determining an application for extension shall be in accordance with the provisions of subclause (4) above read with the changes required by the context.


(10) Employers employing five or fewer employees shall, upon application to the Council through the General Secretary, be exempted from the provisions of this part of the Agreement.



B. For any employer that is a party or a member of a party to the Council and its employees represented by a trade union representative


(1) Exemption from the provisions of this part of the Agreement will be granted in the following circumstances:
(a) Where an employer that is a party or a member of a party to the Council and its employees, represented by a trade union representative, as defined in the Act, have concluded a collective agreement in accordance with the procedure set out in subclause (2) below to vary such provisions: Provided that—
(i) the collective agreement does not contravene the minimum employment standards in this part of the Agreement and in any law or the provisions of the Agreement dated 25 May 1993 between the Cape Clothing Manufacturers' Association, the Cape Knitting Industry Association, the Garment Manufacturers' Association of the Western Cape, the Eastern Province Clothing Manufacturers' Association, the Natal Clothing Manufacturers' Association, the Orange Free State and Northern Cape Clothing Manufacturers' Association, the Transvaal Clothing Manufacturers' Association (incorporating the Transvaal Knitters' Association) and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union; and
(ii) wage rates and contributions to social funds, including the Council's fund, may not be amended without the Council's approval.


(2) An employer that is a party or a member of a party to the Council shall implement the following procedure in order to conclude a collective agreement as set out in subclause (1) (a) (i) above:
(a) The employer shall place on the notice board of the establishment a notice to employees specifying the proposed variation to this part of the Agreement. At the same time a copy of the notice shall be sent to the trade union.
(b) A meeting shall take place at the establishment in order to reach agreement on the proposed variation, which agreement shall then be reduced to writing. In the absence of agreement the employer shall undertake not to refer an application for exemption to the Exemptions Board established by the Council.
(c) The agreement shall be referred to the Council or Regional Chamber for registration and any agreement concluded in terms of subclause (1) (a) (i) that is in contravention of any law or the minimum employment standards set out in this part of the Agreement shall be null and void ab initio.