Labour minister appeals for peaceful wage talks

2013-06-24 11:00

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Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant appealed to companies and workers to finalise wage negotiations peacefully ahead of the “strike season”.

“As the department, we have appealed to both business and organised labour, when they start their negotiations, to finalise their negotiations peacefully and as quickly as possible,” she said today at The New Age breakfast briefing.

Despite labour unrest over the past year, South Africa remained a prime investment location, Oliphant said.

Talks around establishing a peace and stability framework for the mining sector were continuing and a labour relations indaba would be convened to look, particularly, at collective bargaining and strike violence.

Oliphant said centralised collective bargaining, within the framework of labour legislation, was central to preventing strike-related violence.

“After what has happened at Marikana, [it] is precisely because the companies were negotiating as individual companies.”

Police shot dead 34 striking miners in Marikana, North West, on August 16 last year when trying to disperse them. The Farlam Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the events that led to the shooting, and the deaths of 10 people in strike-related violence there the previous week.

She said after the violence erupted during an unprotected strike at Lonmin’s platinum mine at Marikana, the company had given wage increases to its workers, and workers at other mines demanded the same.

Rather, companies needed to respect the labour laws of the country as well as their own policies regarding wage negotiations. Businesses needed to refrain from negotiating with workers’ groups outside the centralised collective bargaining agreements.

Companies that could not afford to meet the negotiated wages could apply to the department for exemption.

Where wage talks deadlocked, the labour department could offer help through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration, Oliphant said.

She also referred to South Africans passing on their perceptions of industrial action to the international community.

“Before you say something you must get information on what exactly has happened. Particularly Marikana, before you say government has failed... wait for the [findings of the] Farlam Commission.”

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