South Africa cannot afford another strike scenario in the mining industry and stakeholders involved in wage disputes must take caution.This is according to Chris Jacobs, director, Operational Improvement Management (OIM). He says that the mining sector has been fraught with conflict, violence and work stoppages over the last year, and stakeholders must take caution to not let wage disputes escalate into strike action. Jacobs says strikes are a complete lose-lose situation for both employees and employers, as businesses lose income and often teeter on the edge of closure while staff face the possibility of retrenchments and lower wage increases than originally offered. He says that strikes, especially unprotected and unlawful ones, are simply a cost no party involved can afford. He explains that successful wage negation is a process that should result in both employer and employee benefitting but is a feat largely determined by the maturity of the relationship between the involved parties – management, employees and unions. Last week wage discussions in the gold industry took an interesting turn with the Chamber of Mines South Africa (the Chamber) referring the matter to the CCMA with regards to the trade union, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), and thereby placing the negotiations on a different level with mediators stepping in to break the impasse between the employers and AMCU. The talks between the Chamber and three other unions has already gone this way but referred to the CCMA by the Unions. AMCU is calling for a 150% rise for entry-level miners.
The dispute comes in the wake of the recently released unemployment figures by Statistics SA, which shows that the country’s jobless rate has risen to 25.6%, the highest since last year.OIM advises several South African blue-chip companies and manages performance improvement assignments in Europe, Australia, the USA and other African countries.