“Put bluntly, you can’t have workable pay bargaining, without bargaining units.   You can’t have bargaining units without job grading.   You can’t have job grading without credible performance appraisal, and you can’t have performance management without effective organisational structure and manpower development.   And so on”.

Adrian du Plessis, an independent consultant, was the chief industrial relations negotiator for the Chamber of Mines and a senior negotiator for employer organisations, has contributed constructively to the debate over the ‘current’ public sector strike – Resolve strikes before they happen first appeared in the Business Day.

Here are some extracts from the article which needs to be read in full in Business Day by clicking on the heading.

Broader context

“An analysis of the public sector strike therefore needs to start with the broader context in which it takes place.

First , the conspicuous consumption of the socio-political elites must have inspired a sense of relative deprivation among employees, which, analysis shows, does frequently motivate industrial militancy.

Second , the perception of corruption, nepotism and patronage in public and private office will inevitably encourage claimants to favours, contracts, rentals and annuities to prosecute their claims while they can.   Third , the sense of entitlement apparent in our past and present does offer some justification to a few for taking or getting ‘something for nothing'”.

Performance structures and systems

“‘Good’ industrial relations are usually found in organisations where work and performance structures and systems are established, and supported by human resource interventions”.

Centralised bargaining not the solution

“First , the growing weight of opinion in industrial relations is that centralised bargaining has passed its sell-by date, particularly where it combines diverse sectors such as health, education, security and welfare.   It is difficult to conceive what all, or any, of these sectors have in common, from the perspective of both the employer and employee, and hard to imagine how a meaningful work and pay conversation might be structured”.

“The second thing about industrial relations is that negotiation, or collective bargaining, is a weapon of last resort”.

Build good industrial relations throughout the year

“The final point is that “good” industrial relations are hard won over time, and inevitably precede the conduct of the annual wage review.   Good industrial relations are forged every day, not once a year, at every level in the organisation, through information sharing, consultation, problem solving and joint decision making”.

“The unions need to be involved in this on a continuous basis.   Forums and processes need to be established, separate from the wage review, at all levels, but contiguous in the sense that the outcomes will constructively inform the wage bargaining process”.

“In effect, management and unions in the public sector need to develop a deep and wide set of relationships that forge a common interest around the huge challenges they face.   The consensus has to be strong enough to define not only the kinds of conflict they will face, and when, but also where the solutions will be found”.