With the current strikes under way one wonders when is this all going to stop? How will we get rid of the unfair treatment of workers and how can we then achieve a level where we do not need national strikes anymore.
The answers lie in the negotiation strategies on both sides of the table but I tend to think that the unions has the best position to steer industry to some sort of parity level where we can go through a few years without strikes.
Let’s take the transport strike for instance. The unions today has made it clear they want to have no freight moved in South-Africa until their demands are met. Now because company X-Transport employs most of the transport workers and also has the worst remuneration package in the industry the unions call for strike action to cover the whole industry. This means that transport company Y-Transport who pays his workers ethically also needs to be penalised under the same strike action.
My argument is that this creates an environment that does not pressure company X-Transport to resolve the strike as his clients cannot jump ship due to his employment strategy because the opposition with the good employment relations is also affected. The ability to provide the best reliable service to your clients is important and if the unions take that away from you then you will quickly start to meet your workforce’s demands. Also if you target the culprit you could hit him twice as hard making higher demands.
We see this every year COSATU has the lowest paid man toi-toi right in front to sing his song of dismay. At the end this man gets the same 10% as the higher earner but it relates to only R100 or R200 raise while the higher earner who already lives in splendour gets R2000 from the deal. If the unions negotiated that the lower earners get 20% and the higher earners only 5% companies will try harder to meet the demands and the poor man will benefit more.
Lastley if the unions invested much more of their money into skills development of its members South-Africa could afford to pay workers much much more. Today we pay specialists to develop strategies programs and analytical services millions to try improve the service that is delivered to the customer. If the workers were better skilled the service delivery would improve and companies could loosen up funds otherwise spent on fruitless studies.
If we try to close the gap in earnings we should go find the culprit employers and punish them and forse them into conforming with the rest of the industry.
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