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Strikes: What does 'issue in dispute' mean?

by , 22 January 2014
News reports this morning indicate that government intends to meet with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) today in a last ditch attempt to halt a mass strike in the mining sector. The looming strike, which is expected to have a devastating impact on the economy, has raised a lot of questions regarding strikes. And one of those questions is: What does 'issue in dispute' mean?

Eye Witness News reports that 100000 workers from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin are set to down tools from Thursday. The reason? They want a minimum R12500 salary.

It'll be interesting to see how the meeting between government, unions and mining houses later today turns out.

In the meantime, let's discuss the matter of 'issue in dispute'. What does it really mean?

Issue in dispute explained

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service defines issue in dispute as 'the demand, the grievance or the dispute that forms the subject matter of the strike or lock out.'

You can normally determine the issue in dispute by reference to the referral document used by your employees when referring the dispute to the CCMA or bargaining council.

The CCMA referral document is Form 7.11 – this contains your employee's description of the issue in dispute and how they'd like to resolve the dispute.

Caution: The problem is that the way the dispute is described often doesn't capture what the actual dispute is about.

In these circumstances the test set out in the case of Adams& Others v Coin Security Group Pty Limited is useful. It asks 'what is it that the employer was required to do in order for the strike to be called off or ended'.

The answer to this question may help you conclude that the issue in dispute isn't one over which employees have the right to strike.

Remember that there are instances in which a strike isn't allowed – which means you can discipline or dismiss anyone who does strike in these cases.

The important thing is that you must know what the issue in dispute is. It'll bring you one step closer to dealing with strike action in your workplace.

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