Lack of mutual respect and trust cause of strikes: Oliphant

Lack of transformation, socio-economic equity, mutual respect and trust are some of the factors which led to lengthy strikes in the platinum belt and the metal and engineering sector, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Thursday.

"These have contributed to the anger and frustration that we see in the current industrial relations dynamics," she said.

Oliphant was speaking at the Mining Lekgotla dialogue in Midrand. She said labour laws were not the biggest problem.

"If indeed the industrial relations system requires some panel-beating, let that be informed by empirical evidence that points to which parts of the whole needs attention and how will it impact on the other parts that make up the system," she said.

"Quick fixes and emotional solutions" would not be sustainable.

In response to the Labour Minister, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) General Secretary, Frans Baleni said that there were other contributing factors to the strikes that have been left unmentioned.

“I think its multiple contributors including the failure on employer’s side to implement the mining charter, especially social labour plans which deal with housing in which workers should be moved from hostels to houses,” said Baleni.

He added that the anger amongst workers is exacerbated by the huge inequalities and wage gaps between the employers and workers.

“The other issue that causes the strikes is the poor treatment by HR [Human Resource] Practitioners; they can’t deal with workers in a professional manner. “

“The anger is accumulated when high numbers of employees are being retrenched, because the other workers get worried that it can be them [being retrenched] tomorrow,” added Baleni.

Oliphant said the adversarial nature of the country's industrial relations environment was historic and the primary aim of the labour market legislative framework was designed to create an enabling environment and tools to address this.

"It is a fact that the principal labour law has set up various institutions to assist in managing the inherent conflict in the employer-employee relationships," said Oliphant.

It had to be determined when was it was appropriate for ministers to intervene in labour disputes in a manner that did not undermine platforms established to deal with labour issues.

The integrity of labour negotiations also needed to be revived.

Proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act could strengthen institutions such as the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) which were put in place to deal with labour issues, said Oliphant.