Mpumalanga salons & spas take issue with Bargaining Council

Several beauty salons and spas in Mpumalanga are objecting to what they describe as the ‘bullying tactics’ and ‘demands’ of the National Bargaining Council for the Hairdressing Cosmetology Beauty & Skincare Industry in South Africa.

A petition is being drawn up by industry stakeholders to this effect, with the help of a member of the ANC Women’s League, for presentation to the Council, which takes its statutory authority from the South African Labour Relations Act (Act 66 of 1995). As such, registration to the Council is mandated by the Main Collective Agreement, as signed by the Minister.

A spa owner in the Mpumalanga area, who wished to remain anonymous, told Professional Beauty that some businesses had shut their doors as they were unable to meet the Council’s levies, with numerous therapists retrenched. “And, the Council’s representatives basically tell us that if we don’t comply with them, there will be serious consequences,” stated the spa owner.

Professional Beauty contacted the Council’s acting CEO, Frik Bekker, for comment. He replied: “We are not aware of any owners who closed down in Mpumalanga, or of any therapist retrenchments. Registration to the Council is mandated by law, but if any business owner feels that they are being bullied by Council representatives, they are welcome to report such behaviour to the Council.”

Mariska Du Plessis of the EOHCB (Employers Organisation for Hairdressing Cosmetology and Beauty) and an executive member of the Bargaining Council, added: “I personally have not heard of, nor come across, any spas or salons in Nelspruit or Hazyview that have closed recently, nor have I heard of any therapists who have been retrenched because of the Bargaining Council. No such statistics have been received by the EOHCB or the Council, nor applications for exemptions.”

She noted that the National Minimum Wage (i.e. R20 an hour) is not set by the Bargaining Council, but by the government, through deliberations at NEDLAC. “If a business cannot afford to pay the National Minimum Wage to workers, it begs the question of whether they should actually be in business. A business needs to be sustainable and comply with the law,” said Du Plessis.

Bekker pointed out that the Main Collective Agreement for the industry is negotiated by the Parties to the Council, namely the EOHCB and UASA – the Union, and signed off by the Minister of Labour. This agreement then effectively alters the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Council levies

The spa owner continued: “Myself and other owners in the area find the Council levy structure outrageous and believe that the Mpumalanga industry pays the highest Council levies in South Africa. Also, some of us have found the billing structure inconsistent, in that we get charged different amounts each month.”

Bekker responded: “The Council levy is payable by the employer and the employee. For establishments registered prior to November 2017, there is a fixed rate applicable to both the employer and employee contribution, in line with other provinces in South Africa. For establishments registered after November 2017, the contribution by the employer and employee are both based on 1.3% of the Contributing Wage.

“Because Mpumalanga falls within the extension of scope of the Council, we’ve phased in the levies – contributions are limited to 60% in year 1 (2020), 80% in year 2 (2021) and then only 100% in year 3 (2022).

“Council Fees are purely based on the salary / wage paid by the employer to the employee. On the current wage schedules published by the Council, the rates payable to employees are calculated using the National Minimum Wage of R 20.00 per hour, calculated over the number of hours a week the employee works.”

Billing inconsistencies

Addressing the matter of billing inconsistencies, Bekker further stated: “During September 2019, the Parties (i.e. EOHCB and the Union) concluded their negotiations for 2020/2021. As a result, the Council had to affect these new agreed upon terms and fees. Due to the short notice of conclusion of these negotiations, the implementation took longer than expected. It was communicated to the industry that certain rules would apply in September 2019, where the new prescribed salaries / wages would apply but that the contributions would be still calculated on the previous schedules published. In October 2019, the new prescribed salaries / wages applied, together with the new contributions as negotiated by the parties. As a result, differences