Mediators key to averting industrial action

Mkhululi Ndamase

MANY industrial strikes could be avoided in South Africa if mediators were properly trained and equipped to negotiate wage settlements, arbitrator and retired quantity surveyor Raymond Rens said yesterday.

Rens, who has at least 35 years’ experience in the industry, was addressing members of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors Eastern Cape chapter in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth.

Afterwards Rens said many strikes – which cost the economy billions of rands a year – could be avoided if all parties were able to meet each other half way.

“There could be two factors that result in the strikes. It could be that mediators are not doing their jobs properly or the unions are being greedy.

“The unions could be saying ‘we could get more money’. The unions sometimes get greedy and as a mediator you have to go in and see where the problem is and analyse it.”

The economy is often at the mercy of industrial action, at times dragging on for weeks, causing production in industries such as the mining and car manufacturing sectors to come to a standstill.

Addressing about 30 quantity surveyors, Rens said: “Mediation is a game built for attorneys. If there is a dispute the mediator is there to get the parties to agree. He’s interested in what the amount should be.

“Mediation is to go to the other party without the other party knowing and say ‘don’t you think you can cut your claim down by 10% then I’ll go to the other party to up their offer by 10% and maybe we can strike a deal?’

“That is mediation. It’s a skill of negotiation and you must always try to think like an attorney and keep the higher ground if possible,” he said.

He said if after breaking for a few weeks and there was still no agreement, the matter could be taken to arbitration or “straight to the attorneys”.

Rens also advised his colleagues on the contracts they enter into to get maximum results in business as well as how to interact with clients.

Siya Loni of Abamisheli Quantity Surveyors said it was good to interact with their counterparts although the presentation was “more like a refresher course”.

 

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