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Ongoing strikes may be holding SA to ransom, but it doesn't need to be your company's fate

by , 17 November 2014
Have you opened the newspaper today? If you have, all you're likely to read about are strikes.

From the four-month long Post Office strike to the taxi service strike disrupting transport in Gauteng today, there seems to be no end to unions' demands on employees.

It's downright frustrating. And costly.

But here's the thing most employees forget: To resolve employee disputes before they turn into costly strikes, you need to get your employees' trade unions on your side. And keep them there.

It really is the ONLY way to solve issues before they have detrimental effect on your company's bottom line.

Since we know that, in the heat of the moment, this is easier to say than to do, we're here with some crucial tips to doing just that.

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Discover the essential components of a strike and effectively manage striking employees...
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Leaving your company crippled by work disruptions and loss of profits...
Discover how you can avoid strikes from ruining your company here. 

To prevent problems from escalating, stay in constant contact with union officials

Most employers hate trade unions. 
They view them as cumbersome, difficult and a downright nuisance. And this feeling is only added to when, every time you open a newspaper, you're hit with another story about strikes in South Africa and unions' failure to find an amicable solution. 
That's why, when it comes to resolving an employee dispute – particularly when it's about your employees' work conditions or salary – the Labour Law for Managers says you can't underestimate the benefits of keeping your industry's union on your side. 
And the only way to do that is through constant communication. 
After all, if you talk to your unions about problems employees have approached them about, you can resolve these issues before emotions run high and the only 'solution' unions can see is a strike. 
But what exactly should you talk to your employees' unions about? And how should you approach them?

Start negotiating with unions as soon as a problem arises to put an end to strikes before they even begin

Here are the steps you should follow with your employees' union the minute you find out your employees are unhappy: 
  • Identify the exact causes of your employees' unhappiness. Speak to the union representative about the issue and what it is that's really upsetting your employees. 
  • Once you understand the dispute, crystalise it down to one clear and concrete issue. Then try find a resolution to this issue together. (In this case, remember not to make any promises you can't or don't intend to keep. Doing so is a sure-fire recipe to a long, drawn-out strike.) 
  • When discussions get heated – and trust us they will – do your best to preserve your relationship with your union and employees. Remember the more you talk, the more chance you have of reaching a solution before your employees feel they have no other choice but to go on strike. 
  • Keep communication channels open by informing your employees' union representatives of your actions and proposed actions. Don't leave them in the dark. If you do, they're more likely to assume you're not giving the dispute the attention it deserves. When employees feel this way, they're more likely to agree to strike action. 
As Investopedia.com puts it: Unions have 'left their mark on the economy, and continue to be significant forces that shape the business and political environments.' These days they're so powerful, they routinely bring whole industries to their knees with their demands. 
The only way to ensure this doesn't happen to you is to work together. And open communication is the best tool you have to do just that. 
If, however, you fail to reach a resolution during this initial stage, a strike may be imminent. To deal with those, the Labour Law for Managers team has these great tips to protect your business. 

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