LABOUR: Call For Rethink On Industrial Relations
Recent Western Cape Business News
THE wildcat strikes and violence in the mining industry in recent weeks have made a review and a rethink of South Africa’s industrial relations policies and procedures absolutely essential, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“I’m afraid these events have changed everything and we need to take stock, because future wage negotiations are going to be very much more difficult and dangerous,” said Mr Michael Bagraim, President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He did, however, see the re-election of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi as a positive development. “We don’t always agree with Mr Vavi but he does understand the complexity of the problem and we have often found him to be the voice of reason. That is going to be very important in the days ahead.”
Mr Bagraim said that a number of new forces had entered the industrial relations picture in the weeks of the mine unrest. “We had a competing union and we had miners taking matters into their own hands with wildcat strikes and protests.”
On the other side of the table there was a complex situation involving both the mines and their sub-contractors. He pointed out that Mr David van Wyk, head researcher at the Bench Marks Foundation, had told Parliament that many of the workers were actually employed by sub-contractors who had made a deal with the mining company and then pocketed most of the money. The result was that the rock drillers did not earn enough.
Mr Bagraim said this explained the wide discrepancy in the reports on the actual wages earned as the workers were talking about the amounts they received from the sub-contractors while employers spoke about what they paid the sub-contractor for the rock-drillers and other workers.
“We used to have a straight-forward process with national bargaining taking place between the mines and the majority union. The new situation is going to make it very much more difficult for both the unions and the employers,” he said.
The workers had now learned to by-pass the normal industrial relations procedures by resorting to wildcat strikes. “These strikes have earned them some big increases and we now have a situation where many workers believe that this is the best way to get results. This will lead to more wildcat strikes and they may not be confined the mining industry,” Mr Bagraim said.
He said the unions now faced a major challenge to re-assert their authority and re-establish orderly negotiation processes. “The unions will have to become more transparent and improve communication with their members to regain their trust. They will also have to concentrate on work-related issues rather than politics.
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