By Reon Janse van Rensburg
Economic difficulty inevitably results in job losses, and this unfortunate reality is brought to the fore in the aftermath of the strict lockdown measures. The new normal will also result in new labour relations.
Covid-19 will have a permanent effect on labour relations. The virus will be with us for a long time to come, and employers and employees will have to learn to live with the virus. However, the choice should never be between work and health, but for working healthily. Solidarity is well-organised in many workplaces in South Africa with more than 1 000 shop stewards, 62 full-time organisers and 19 offices nationwide. For the next 18 months, this team will focus on job retention and job recovery within a healthy working environment.
The Covid-19 crisis is such that labour relations will have to undergo radical change in order to deal with the crisis. Trends in labour relations that have been undergoing change over a long period will be accelerated by this crisis. This includes the following:
- The new world of labour relations will be based much more on interests and much less on conflict.
- An interest-based negotiation model based on the win-win principle will be used by Solidarity where appropriate.
- Cooperation between the role players will necessarily be needed for the sustainability of this undertaking.
- One necessary requirement will be the good faith of the role players. Employers will need to be serious about retaining jobs and not abuse the crisis to get rid of employees.
- Positive and constructive participation in employer committees and structures regarding Covid-19 related processes and discussions, including at bargaining council level with employer organisations, will be encouraged.
A partnership principle with employers regardubg the well-being of members, but also regarding sustainability, will be established.
There will be constructive collaboration with fellow trade unions to create a culture of collaboration that will also create the right atmosphere for win-win problem solving.
Talks with fellow trade unions can be preceded by strategic engagement at national level to limit risks associated with conflict between trade unions. Where good co-operation with fellow trade unions already exists, strategic engagement should continue.
The principles of the market economy should also be protected and promoted as it is the only system that can create jobs in the formal economy.
New questions arise in the environment of labour relations. Solidarity is developing dozens of answers to these types of questions that did not exist in the past.