Here's how being a labour relations manager is all about preparing information for collective bargaining negotiations

Image: 123RF/Kurhan.

Dispute resolution has become complex, involving employees, management, unions, other firms, and government agencies.

Specialists involved in dispute resolution must be highly knowledgeable and experienced. Industrial relations specialists also need to act as mediators by advising and counselling labour and management to prevent and, when necessary, resolve disputes over labour agreements or other labour relations’ issues.

They may also act as arbitrators, umpires or referees, and decide disputes that bind both labour and management to specific terms and conditions of labour contracts. Labour relations specialists who work for unions, perform many of the same functions on behalf of a union and its members.

In South Africa, a human resources director usually formulates labour policy, oversees industrial labour relations, negotiates collective bargaining agreements, and coordinates grievance procedures to handle complaints resulting from disputes with employees who are members of a union.

This is done either with or without the help of a labour relations manager, officer or outside specialist. Industrial relations managers and officers also advise and collaborate with the director of human resources, other managers, and members of their staff, because all aspects of personnel policy such as wages, benefits, pensions and work practices, may be involved in drawing up a new or revised contract with a labour union.

Watch the video to learn more:

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects

To practice as a labour relations manager or a labour relations consultant would normally require a great deal of experience. A degree in Law or an LLB degree is recommended or a degree with an honours in labour relations management could be followed.

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

Compulsory subjects: None but a matric with a degree pass is recommended. 

Recommended subjects: Mathematics, History, Economics 

What to study

Degree: Appropriate courses:Business Management - UNISA, UJ, UFH, NMU, NWU, UZ Human Resources Management - NMU, NWU, UNISA, Monash, UJ, UFH, UV, UZ Industrial Psychology - NWU, US, UFS, UFH, UWC, UNISA.

Diploma: Business Management - most TVET colleges, Labour Relations - VUT, Human Resources - UNISA diploma in Personnel Management is also obtainable via a 3-year correspondence course through the Institute of Personnel Management.


  • Government departments
  • Municipalities
  • Mining companies
  • Commerce and industry
  • Self-employment, e.g. as an employment agent

Getting started

  • Speak to a labour relations manager or officer about this type of career
  • Develop an interest in the labour laws of the country
  • Pay special attention to labour law cases in the media
  • Try to get a holiday job in a human resources department of a large organisation

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