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What the Chamber of Mines should expect from trade unions as wage negotiations kick off this week

by , 11 July 2013
Centralised wage negotiations between gold producers represented by the South African Chamber of Mines (CoM) and trade unions represented by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and Uasa officially begin tomorrow, MiningWeekly reports. And the Chamber of Mines is bracing itself for the toughest round of negotiations with gold mines yet. Unions are asking gold mining companies to double miners' pay. While the Chamber will seek to work around the high wage demands in a tough economy, they'll do well to also prepare themselves for the following wage negotiation scenarios that could arise...

'As an employer you should expect almost anything from the union and your employees during wage negotiations,' says the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

And depending on the circumstances, you could find yourself facing the following situations:

Seven scenarios that could arise during wage negotiations

#1: Demands

The union could demand that company managers sell their fancy cars and use the money for pay increases. In this situation, you could respond by asking the union if it'll bear the cost of replacing the managers' cars.

#2: Threats

An example of this is that the union threatens to go on strike if you refuse to pay their demanded pay increase.

Respond to this by telling the union that a strike would sour employee-management relations and employees would lose money. Add that if the company makes losses due to strike action, there'll be less money available to pay wage increases.

#3: Accusations of racism, sexism, exploitation

In the mining sector, these accusations are already in full swing. The leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) Joseph Mathunjwa has reportedly accused mining giant Glencore Xstrata of practicing racism in the workplace, Bloomberg reports.

In you're faced with a similar situation, simply deny these alleged motivations and reiterate your true motivations, namely to find a settlement fair to both parties.

#4: Work stoppages

You'll have to weather a protected strike and implement the contingency measures arranged with your labour broker.

So ensure you have adequate security standing by in case striking employees attack replacement workers or try to damage property.

In employees go on an unprotected strike during wage negotiations, you'll need to follow the ultimatum route, like issuing dismissal letters and asking workers to work or face job losses.

#5: Blockades, harassment of staff and visitors and damage to property

In this event, you must swiftly warn employees who participate in this misconduct that they're in line for severe discipline.

If they persist hand them notices of disciplinary hearings that stress the grossness of the misconduct. In addition, hold the hearings as soon as the strike is over and calm has returned.

#6: Go-slows

Well before holding wage negotiations ensure every aspect of your production and service is being precisely measured every day, in terms of its quality and speed of output. If this drops significantly during negotiations you probably have a go-slow on your hands.

A go-slow carried out for purposes of pressurising you to improve your wage offer is a type of strike. You, therefore, need to take it very seriously.

To work out how to respond to a go-slow, draw up comparative output figures for before and after the start of negotiations. If there's no other reason for the drop in production, treat the go-slow the same way you would a full work stoppage, the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service advises.

# 7: Toyi-toying

As long as the toy-toying isn't during working hours and doesn't turn violent you should tolerate it. Labour laws afford employees this right.

It's crucial that you're thoroughly prepared before going into wage negotiations as these scenarios are very real and could severely affect your business if you don't plan accordingly to avert them.

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