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Do you know how to manage unprotected strike action similar to the one Lonmin's facing?

by , 13 June 2013
The world's third largest platinum producer, Lonmin is facing a real possibility of an unprotected strike. This after, the platinum producer said it had failed to reach a recognition agreement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). With South Africa's annual wage bargaining season in full swing, it's possible your company could face similar labour unrest if talks come to a deadlock. Read on to find out what to do when your employees go on an unprotected strike.

The breakdown in talks between Lonmin and Amcu has paved a way for a possible strike.

Amcu had vowed failure to reach a union recognition agreement would result in workers downing tools. Meanwhile, Lonmin has said the strike would be illegal.

The South African Chamber of Mines has warned the labour unrest at Lonmin could spread to other mines reports The Citizen.

While you may not be in the mining sector, an unprotected strike could be a reality for you too and it can have a number of unpleasant consequences for your company, including financial loss.

That's why you need to be prepared and know what to do when your employees go on an unprotected strike.

Generally, there are certain procedural requirements that should be complied with before your employees embark upon a protected strike. But, what happens when these procedures aren't followed and they go in an unprotected strike?

Here's how to deal with an unprotected strike

If your employees don't follow the procedures their strike isn't protected. This means they aren't protected from dismissal.

It also means that as an employer, you can approach the Labour Court for an urgent interdict to prevent them from continuing with the strike.

If employees continue to strike despite an interdict, you can start thinking about dismissal.

Although 'you don't have to first get an interdict before you consider dismissal, it is usually best to do so, as this places you in a stronger position to defend the fairness of the dismissal,' advises the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

What classifies as a procedurally fair dismissal?

To effect a procedurally fair dismissal of striking employees, you're obliged to follow a fair procedure.

This means you must:

  • Issue a written ultimatum to striking employees to return to work or face dismissal. The written ultimatum must be clear. You must ensure it's conveyed in such a manner that the employees understand that, in effect, they're being warned to return to work or face dismissal. It's also important that you give employees' sufficient time to respond to the ultimatum. Also keep in mind that if the employees are represented by a union, you must advise the union of the ultimatum and seek their intervention.
  • Give your employees a hearing before you decide finally to dismiss them. In past instances, 'the Labour Appeal Court has held that it is not enough to give employees an ultimatum to return to work,' says the Loose Leaf. If your employees don't adhere to the ultimatum, you must give them a chance to be heard before you dismiss because there may be a good reason why they haven't adhered to the ultimatum.

There you have it! These are your options should your employees embark on an unprotected strike like the one Lonmin's facing. Use them to help your company minimise the impact of labour unrest.

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