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What happens if you and the union reach a negotiation deadlock?

by , 30 July 2013
If you've agreed to negotiate wages in a binding and valid collective agreement with a registered trade union you'll have a legal duty to do so. But what happens what if you and the union reach a negotiation deadlock? Read on to find out...

One of the roles of a bargaining council (BC) is to negotiate collective agreements. In those industries where bargaining councils exist, employer and union representatives negotiate wage increases for the entire industry,' says the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

If you fall into one of these industries like mining you're required to implement, at the very least, the minimum wage increases agreed at your BC.

But what happens if you fail to reach an agreement with the union?

If you and the union reach a deadlock, the union can also invoke the Labour Relations Act's dispute resolution process (unless a valid and binding collective agreement prevents this).

This means the following will happen:

Step 1: The union refers the wage dispute to the CCMA or BC.

Step 2: The CCMA or BC attempts to conciliate (settle peacefully) the dispute.

Step 3: If conciliation fails the union must give you advance notice of the strike (48 hours' notice to all employers and in the case of the State seven days' notice).

Step 4: Only after completing the above procedures is the union entitled to embark on its strike.

Remember, if you reach a deadlock with your union, you can't break the deadlock by dismissing the employees.

The law makes it an automatically unfair dismissal to fire or retrench employees as a means of forcing them to accept your wage demand. This could result in the Labour Court forcing you to reinstate all the employees who you dismissed and to pay all of them the full remuneration they would've earned during the period between the date of the dismissal and the date of the court order.

Should the Court decide not to reinstate the employees it could still order you to pay each of them up to 24 months' remuneration in compensation.

What's a better way of breaking the deadlock with the union?

A better way to break a deadlock and avoid a strike is to bring in a skilled, reputable mediator to help you reach an agreement. While no mediator can guarantee success, it's important you optimise your chances of resolving the conflict by ensuring that the mediator you use has the required expertise.

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