collective bargaining

What is a collective bargaining agreement?

Last year, 2017, Kenya’s health sector was shaken to the core when doctors laid down their tools and demanded that the government meets their end of the deal. Constantly, in their press conferences and appearances on TV and radio, the doctors’ leaders referred to the “CBA”.  We have since had made other strikes by public officials: nurses in government hospitals, lecturers in public universities, among others. It has however not happened in Kenya alone.

Early this year, in Uganda, doctors also lay down their tools in protest of poor working conditions, a failure by the government to raise their salaries and because of the lack of equipment in hospitals. Though they were threatened with summary dismissal, the doctors insisted that they would not go back to work, until the government made good on their end of the bargain, pursuant to a “CBA” which had been negotiated earlier.

What is a “CBA”?

CBA is acronym for Collective Bargaining Agreement.  A collective bargaining agreement is a written contract between an employer and a trade union. It is usually a result of a negotiation process on wages, working hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

There are three categories of terms under a collective bargaining agreement and they are:

  1. Mandatory
  2. Voluntary
  3. Illegal

Mandatory terms are those which the law requires an employer and an employee to agree on in any working relationship. They include terms on wages/salaries, allowances, grievances and disciplinary procedures, safety and health standards, work standards and practices, etc.

Voluntary terms are those which may be negotiated between the parties, but which are not mandatory, such as employee rights.

Illegal terms are those which are unlawful. A common example of an illegal term in a CBA is when an employer contracts to hire employees from a one trade union.

Like all contracts, all parties to a CBA are bound by its terms. If one party abdicates their obligations, then the other party has the right to enforce the terms of the CBA against the defaulting party. As such, it is important that both parties retain legal counsel to be present and act for them during negotiation, and execution of the CBA.

So, what is collective bargaining? It is the process of negotiating the terms of employment between the employer and a group of workers organized under a trade union.

Well, now you know what a CBA is!


This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 2 Issue 2 of February  16th  2018. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE

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