Keeping open the channels of communication and ensuring labour stability were important for the country’s ability to meet the economic goals set out in the National Planning Committee’s (NPC’s) 2030 vision.
Chris Jacobs, a director at OIM International, a leading business consultancy firm, said the economy could not afford costs such as those mining giants Implats and Exarro incurred recently as a result of industrial action. “In times like these, we invariably see an increase in strike action.
“However, these strikes result in damage to the economy and workers.”
Jacobs urged businesses to establish communication channels to foster productive relationships and enable grievances to be dealt with immediately, saying this was particularly important in the challenging economic environment
He said the recent violent strike at Implats mine in Rustenberg left three miners dead and cost the mine 80 000 ounces in lost production. “Implats has lost about R1.2bn so far as a result of the strike.”
According to Jacobs, in the aftermath of this kind of strike it was crucial that businesses and unions took immediate corrective measures to establish stability. The first step in opening communication channels was to establish the willingness of the various parties involved to improve the relationship.
“Following a dispute, there is a lot of baggage and antagonistic feelings to work through and there is always a level of mistrust,” Jacobs said. “Especially in a case like this where there has been serious intimidation.
“This must be dealt with immediately.”
If the parties show a willingness to engage, Jacobs suggested various bilateral discussions with all role players which should prepare the groundwork for the continued discussion. This included establishing ground rules and agreeing on a common goal for the relationship going forward.
He said the intent of the country’s labour laws was to achieve labour peace and stability. They were further intended to achieve social justice as well as social responsibility.
The labour laws aimed for economic development and productivity, democratisation of the workplace, and skills development.
“As soon as business managers and union leaders understand and take ownership of the fact that the laws are designed to create prosperity and protect the integrity of both parties, a mutually beneficial and sustainable agreement can be reached,” Jacobs said. “Therefore, it is important to also develop understanding for roles and responsibilities of the different role players.”