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Who should be on your wage negotiation team?

by , 11 September 2013
While South Africa is currently experiencing strike action, there's been progress in some sectors. In the gold sector, trade union Solidarity accepted a two-year salary increase by the Chamber of Mines on Monday. And the three week National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) strike in the automotive industry also ended on Monday. Perhaps one of the reasons agreements have been reached in these sectors is because of the people involved in the wage negotiations. If you want the same success, read on to find out who should be on your wage negotiating team.

Wage negotiation is where you and your employees jointly decide on the wage increase amount through a process of bargaining. You might bargain with the employees themselves or with their chosen representatives.

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service urges you to NOT walk into wage negotiations with trade unions without a fundamental knowledge of collective bargaining, the negotiation process and the relevant legislation.

But the big question is: Who should be on your wage negotiating team?

Here what you must consider when selecting your wage negotiating team

Never include people who lose their temper easily or feel hostile towards employees on your negotiating team.

These team members can destroy the fragile peace you need to ensure the negotiations are non-violent, strike free, successful and inexpensive.

If you've had little or no experience in wage negotiations, include someone in your team who has experience as well as solid expertise in labour law.

At least in the beginning, this expert must lead your team. The same expert must provide the team with formal training in wage negotiations.

He must use his role as negotiating team leader to give the team on-the-job training in conducting wage negotiations effectively, peacefully and in compliance with the law.

How should you respond to a disruptive member of your wage negotiation team?

If one of your team members makes an uncalled for remark that upsets the union, you should intervene.

Let's say one of your team tells the union official he's stupid. In this case, immediately apologise for this remark and adjourn the meeting for five minutes.

In this break, firmly but politely explain to your team member that, while you share his frustrations, you have to rise above personalities.

What happens when you reach a deadlock during wage negotiations?

Sometimes the parties' interests are so far apart or emotions have got out of hand and a settlement will just not come. This is called a deadlock. Even the most skilled negotiators reach this situation from time to time, says the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

When this happens, it's time to bring in a mediator…

The use of a neutral mediator acceptable to both parties can go a long way in achieving a settlement. Don't resist using a mediator for reasons of pride.

A properly skilled mediator will be able to:

  • Bring calm to the proceedings;
  • Analyse the causes of the deadlock; and
  • Use techniques to break the deadlock and get the negotiations on track again.

Remember, knowing who to include in your wage negotiating team can help ensure negotiations are successful and inexpensive. And they'll help keep strikes non-violent and short too.

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