SA to hold labour relations indaba

25 June 2013

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant says her department will, together with other role players, convene a labour relations indaba where the future of collective bargaining and social dialogue in South Africa will be discussed.

The issues of unprocedural strike action and violence during strikes will also be on the indaba agenda.

Addressing a New Age breakfast briefing in Pretoria on Monday, the minister said her department was working closely with Nedlac and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to ensure that in the aftermath of Marikana and subsequent incidents of labour unrest, a “nation united in the view of how it wants to deal with challenges of industrial relations will rise”.

Highlighting some of the work done by the government to bring stability to the labour relations environment, Oliphant said her department and others had engaged with organised labour and business to conclude a peace and stability framework for the mining sector.

She said the working group on stability in the platinum industry had reached an advanced stage of discussions on a peace and stability accord.

“As part of its deliberations, the working group has considered causes and effects of instability in the platinum sector and has proposed a set of solutions and actions.

“This also resulted in the Framework for Peace and Stability in the Mining Industry on 25 February 2013, but as we know, it is touch and go with regards to commitment to implement this framework,” Oliphant said.

Talks were also continuing on the envisaged nature of a new centralised bargaining arrangement in the platinum sector.

Oliphant said efforts were under way to engage the leadership of the labour movement to discuss the adversarial nature of industrial relations.

“A few weeks ago, we met with Cosatu, Nactu, NUM and Amcu. In the interactions with them, I appealed to their sense of patriotism to say, let us always put the interest of our country above all. What is the use of gaining all the members without a business to represent them in?

“It was a difficult meeting and I have tasked the DG to organise a follow up engagement,” the minister said. “The department will also explore areas that present partnership possibilities, such as capacity building and communication with the labour movement.”

For collective bargaining institutions to work, Oliphant said, strong and sophisticated union organisations and strong employer bodies were needed. “The bulk of the troubles in the collective bargaining processes mirror the state of organisation in the parties that are involved.”

She stressed, however, that although she had sent representatives to help parties in dispute, it was not possible for her to become involved in every dispute. She warned that this carried the risk of undermining the very institutions that were set up to do this work.