Dealing with disputes at Plant Level can be a complex and challenging process for Employers. Disputes that are not resolved efficiently and effectively can negatively impact productivity and Employee morale, resulting in financial losses and potential legal disputes. In this article, we will discuss the process that Employers should follow when dealing with disputes at Plant Level, with emphasis on the unique challenges and considerations involved.
Step 1: Informal Resolution
The first step in resolving a dispute at Plant Level is informal resolution. This process involves encouraging open communication and active listening between the Employer and the Employee to find a solution that works for everyone. At Plant Level, informal resolution is critical because it allows Employees to raise their concerns in a non-threatening environment and fosters a culture of trust and mutual respect. Employers must ensure that they listen actively to their Employees’ concerns, provide feedback, and work towards a solution that benefits everyone.
Step 2: Formal Grievance
If informal resolution fails, the Employee may raise a formal grievance. At Plant Level, it is essential to have a clear and structured formal grievance process in place. This process should include providing Employees with a written grievance procedure, an opportunity to present their case, and a designated person to investigate the matter impartially. The Employer should also ensure that Employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities during the grievance process.
Step 3: Mediation
If the formal grievance process does not resolve the dispute, Mediation is the next step. Mediation involves a neutral third party who works with both parties to find a mutually acceptable solution. At Plant Level, engaging a Mediator with experience in resolving workplace disputes and understanding the unique challenges involved is essential. The Mediator should also be trusted by both parties and have a reputation for impartiality.
Step 4: Arbitration
If Mediation fails, the next step is Arbitration. This is a more formal process in which the dispute is referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) or Bargaining Council, where an independent Arbitrator is appointed to hear the case and make a binding decision.
Step 5: Litigation
If Arbitration does not resolve the dispute, the final option is litigation. Litigation is a costly and time-consuming process and should only be used as a last resort. At the Plant level, litigation can negatively impact productivity and Employee morale, resulting in financial losses and potential legal disputes.
It is clear from the above that dealing with disputes at Plant Level can be a complex and challenging process for Employers. Employers should have a clear and structured dispute resolution process in place that emphasises informal resolution, formal grievance, and Mediation. Only after these processes have been exhausted should a matter be referred to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for adjudication.
Susan M. Heathfield states in her “Conflict Resolution” article for About.com, “Do not believe, for even a moment, the only people who are affected by the conflict are the participants. Everyone in your office and every Employee with whom the conflicting Employees interact are affected by the stress. People feel as if they are walking on eggshells in the presence of the antagonists. This contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment for other Employees. In worst-case scenarios, your organisation members take sides, and your organisation is divided.”
At Plant Level, it is critical to have a culture of trust and mutual respect, encourage open communication, and work towards a mutually acceptable solution that benefits everyone involved. Employers must also ensure that their Employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities during the dispute resolution process and are provided with the necessary support and guidance.
Article by Arlene Jacobs
Senior Dispute Resolution Official at Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO SA)