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Four tips to control your employees' strike action

by , 13 June 2013
A crippling strike is looming at Lonmin's Marikana mine, which has been plagued by union rivalry since last year's August massacre in which 44 people died. According to Eye Witness News, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) issued a 48 hour strike notice after parties failed to reach an understanding on Tuesday on the recognition agreement. Meanwhile, Amcu members have vowed to down tools if their union isn't granted majority organisational rights over its rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Read on to discover four tips that'll help you respond effectively if your employees resort to strike action...

Strikes have a number of unpleasant consequences for you as an employer. Last years' strike actions alone cost the gold and platinum sectors billions of rand in output, not to mention the violence and intimidation that's often accompanied by strikes in South Africa.

And that's exactly why you need to know how to respond when your employees resort to strike action to quell the damage.

Use these four tips to respond when employees go on strike

  1. When a union has given notice of intention to strike, employees sometimes ready themselves for the strike by asking non-union members to join in. This often takes the form of intimidation. 'Advise the union that they're obliged to ensure that non union members are not intimidated as soon as notice of intention to strike has been given. Suggest that it is the union's responsibility to control its members,' advises The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.
  2. Place a notice on notice boards advising your employees that you're adopting a zero tolerance approach towards intimidation. Advise your employees that any employee who intimidates another employee will be disciplined and if found guilty, may be dismissed.
  3. Ensure that you place a notice on the notice board setting out your company policy on misconduct. In the letter to the union, advise them that if their members engage in acts of violence or damage to property, the company will hold the union liable for such losses.
  4. After the strike has ended, proceed with disciplinary action if there have been acts of misconduct. 'It is important to establish a precedent that irrespective of the outcome of the strike, misconduct will not be tolerated,' says the Loose Leaf.

Remember that although these tips indicate possible ways of dealing with intimidation and misconduct once you have a strike on your hands, it's better to address these issues before you're faced with strike action.

So negotiate rules with the union about strike related conduct when you're not in dispute. This way, you're more likely to get a sensible arrangement in place. And if the pre-agreed arrangement is breached, you'll be in a stronger position to take action.


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