Trade unions as suppliers of goods and service

Authors Jacolien Barnard, Monray Botha

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Associate Professor, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria; Professor and Head of Department, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 30 Issue 2, 2018, p. 216 – 250


Trade unions are important vehicles through which social justice is achieved in the South African society. They play a role in the social, political, and economic spheres. Trade unions are powerful institutions and many provide a wide variety of services and goods to their members, having extended their activities to financial services such as insurance, pension funds, and health products. Some unions have questioned the constitutionality of limiting workers to a particular pension fund which has the effect of impinging on their freedom of association.1 Section 5(6) of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (‘the CPA’) forms part of the application provisions of the Act. The aim of the section is to provide ‘greater certainty’ regarding the scope of application of the CPA. It provides that the supply of any goods or services in the ordinary course of business to any of its members by a club, trade union, association, society, or other collective entity, whether incorporated or not, of persons voluntarily associated and organised for a common purpose or purposes, whether for fair value consideration or otherwise, irrespective of whether there is a charge or economic contribution demanded or expected in order to become or remain a member of that entity, will fall under the Act. This section implies that the goods and services provided by trade unions to their members are subject to the Act, and has fundamental implications for trade unions and their members. This contribution illustrates the development and extended role that trade unions play, not only with regard to labour relations, but also as the suppliers of goods and services to their members.