STRIKE IN PEACE: Could there, at last, be an outbreak of peaceful labour relations?

STRIKE IN PEACE: Could there, at last, be an outbreak of peaceful labour relations?

This is the BIG IDEA behind the Draft Accord & Code which the government, employers, unions and the CCMA discussed in Nedlac and recently published for public debate. Not all unions, such and Numsa and Amcu were involved, so it’s not certain yet if they’ll sign up – or apply it.

The 2017 annual negotiations are already in full swing. And there’re early signs we’re in for a bumpy road. Possible strikes are looming in several sectors – notably in the metal and engineering industry. The general climate is unusually tense. The economic environment is exceptionally tough and the politics are volatile. Add to the mix – the intense competition between Cosatu unions and their former members in the new break-away Saftu unions…who are sounding a lot more militant.

If there was ever a need for the BIG IDEA to kick in – it’s now! This might be wishful thinking given the timing and current state of hostilities. But it’s really worth getting a snapshot of what the Accord tries to achieve – good faith bargaining and conduct which is lawful and peaceful.

Clause 9.1 requires parties to-

 “take all necessary measures to prevent violence, intimidation, and damage to property and, if it does occur, to take all the steps necessary to discourage such conduct and to comply with a court order interdicting the violence, intimidation or damage to property.”

The Draft Code has four Parts –

  • Collective bargaining
  • Workplace democracy and dialogue
  • Industrial action: strikes and lockouts; and

The Collective Bargaining part contains practical guidelines on how to plan for and to conduct constructive negotiations. The Workplace Democracy part promotes a culture of mutual respect and trust between management and employees through consultation in the decision-making process.

The Industrial action and Picketing parts introduce the notion of a “peaceful” strike or lockout – which it describes as one “free of intimidation and violence”. And notably, it refers to strikes as being “protected and peaceful”. This suggests a strike may only be protected for so long as it’s peaceful.

TIP:  The Accord and Code offer a refreshing path out of the violence and destruction which have plagued our labour relations in recent years. Hopefully, it will map the path to a much better way of doing things – the path of partnership. The economy must thrive and grow to create jobs. Time is of the essence.

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References:
1. Nedlac – www.nedlac.org.za
Accord on Collective Bargaining and Industrial Action;
Draft Code of Good Practice: Collective Bargaining, Industrial Action, and Picketing
2. Worklaw – www.worklaw.co.za.