Consolidated Employers Organisations’ theme for the month of July is how best to resolve collective bargaining disputes.  In our previous article, we addressed building an effective collective bargaining relationship with trade unions or worker representatives.  This article focuses on some key aspects that must be considered when the employer and trade union meet around the negotiation table.

Having a healthy and conducive relationship with the trade union is imperative in order to negotiate and find a settlement at the factory floor level.  This provides certainty as opposed to negotiations at the CCMA or Bargaining Councils, which could result in strike action.

There are various skills that are fundamental to negotiation.  We urge our members to be mindful of such skills when conducting negotiations.  Negotiation meetings must be facilitated by a reputable organisation that has experience in negotiating matters of mutual interest.

In any negotiation process, information must be disclosed so that there is transparency which reinforces trust and credibility between the parties.  For example, financial records, production schedules and any other information that will assist parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement.  Unfortunately, when information is not disclosed, it is perceived that the party withholding information is acting in bad faith.

As far as reasonably practicable, the team conducting the negotiations advisably should remain the same from the start to the end of the negotiations.  If people are added or removed from the negotiating teams, this could affect the flow of negotiations, which is not desirable and could result in a stalemate.

Importantly, demeanour and language are critical factors that could affect the efficacy of negotiations.  The tone of language and behaviour must be monitored.  South Africa is a multicultural and diverse society.  The way things are communicated have a significant impact on the outcome of negotiations.  Therefore, parties are urged to be always courteous and well mannered.

The avoidance of fixed positions is also key.  Parties are urged to approach negotiations with a clear mind.  The strict adherence to positions necessitates that there will always be a winner and a loser which creates animosity.  Through constructive dialogue, parties are urged to find solutions to mutual problems and avoid fixed demands and responses. This approach entails joint problem solving, which can enhance the trust and mutual benefit between the parties and not always about who wins or loses.


Article by: Shakti Jainarain

Senior Dispute Resolution Official – Durban