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Brace yourself for wage negotiations as SA's strike season steps into high gear

by , 03 June 2013
'With the country experiencing tough economic times and unions emboldened by hefty wage increases granted last year to end strikes, analysts predict difficult months ahead,' reported Fin24 last month. And they weren't wrong! In the past few weeks, FSP Business has repeatedly written on the wildcat strikes hitting the already volatile mining sector. Now, comes news that Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is set to meet mining unions and their federations ahead of wage negotiation season in the sector...

Today's meeting between the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). and Minister Oliphant is pivotal.

According to Oliphant's spokesperson Musa Zondi: 'The meeting is to improve labour relations in the mining sector, but also recognising that now is the beginning of the negotiating season,' reports Fin24.

And while the economy and mine owners alike are holding their breath in anticipation of the outcome of today's meeting, if you're faced with wage negotiations in your company, you need to know what's expected of you, cautions Labour Watch Newsletter.

Revealed: The four stages of wage negotiations and what to do for each of them

If your employees' union approaches you about wage negotiations, make sure you're prepared by understanding what's involved:

Stage 1: Preparation
During this stage, you need to arm yourself with crucial information and decide what you want out of the negotiations. You'll also need to get your team together for these discussions.

But don't attempt to lead wage negotiations until you've properly developed the skills necessary for successful negotiations. If you 'mess it up you could either unnecessarily cause a strike or end up agreeing to wage increases you can't afford,' warns FSP Business.

Stage 2: Introduction and positioning
During the meeting, you'll need to introduce the parties involved and confirm that your company's committed to constructive negotiations and trust the union will operate in the same spirit. Once you've done this, share any concerns you have over the union's demands and set the agenda and ground rules for the negotiation.

During this stage, ensure your team takes detailed notes of everything the union says during the sessions as well as their body language. This will help you gauge hot they'll react to your counter-response.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Once the union's responded to your presentation, adjourn to consider their response (paying attention to what you and your team noted) and discuss your company's counter-response. You should work out your counter response based on the content and underlying trends in the union's response, as well as your company's goals and concerns.

Stage 4: Finalise the settlement
According to the newsletter, you can do this by:

  • Signalling you have little or no more room in your mandate to move further;
  • Politely, but firmly, making it clear the union's threats of a strike don't scare you;
  • Reminding the union the employees will start becoming impatient to get their increases;
  • Repeating the advantages of your proposals for the workers; and
  • Making a last minute proposal.

If they accept the counter-offer, put the agreement into a written contract as quickly as possible and get the union official and chief shop steward to sign it. Then report back to your workers and make it clear a deal has been reached and clarify the contents of the agreement.

So there you have it! By understanding how wage negotiations with unions work, you can avoid the unnecessary stress and loss of production that's synonymous with SA's strike season.

Can you afford a 52% salary increase for all your employees?
Discover how to stand up to striking employees and even completely avoid strikes with the A-Z Guide to Preventing and Managing Strikes...


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