Agency and Closed Shop Agreements
By Johanette Rheeder
Agency shop agreements
Section 25 of the Act allows a representative trade union and the employer, or a representative
trade union and an employer's organisation, to conclude a collective agreement known as an
agency shop agreement. These agreements are collective in nature and the union cannot force the
employer into such an agreement, unless by strike action. The refusal by an employer to enter into
an agency shop agreement cannot be referred to arbitration.
This agreement requires the employer to deduct an agreed agency fee from the remuneration of
employees - who must be identified in the agreement - who are not members of the trade union
but who are eligible for membership. The employee does not have to belong to the union, but
must pay the dues as the employee enjoys the fruit of the union’s negotiations with the employer.
The reasoning behind this type of agreement therefore, is that the trade unions say that when
they negotiate for improved terms and conditions of employment for their members, or they
negotiate for higher wages for the members, all employees in that workplace benefit from the
results of those negotiations - even those employees who are not members of the trade union.
The viewpoint of the trade union is therefore that those employees who are not members of the
trade union but who are benefiting from the negotiation efforts of the trade union should pay
some sort of fee to the trade union. Those employees are not forced to join a trade union, and
they are still free to join any other trade union of their choice. Only a trade union that is a majority
trade union may enter into such an agreement.