Better labour relations in SA essential

Things have changed, now employers want you to use your car for their benefit, while some don’t offer help with medical aid or pension plans.

Instead they expect employees to cover them out of salaries so meagre that survival from one payday to the next is an insanity-inducing exercise in mental gymnastics.

It’s true, employers have big problems, what with rising rates and taxes, electricity costs and burdensome government red tape – but that’s no excuse for the disdain with which many treat workers.

We seem to be caught in a vicious downward spiral of mutually assured destruction without hope of escape, where the workloads of retrenched workers are foisted on the few remaining ones under the guise of “multi-skilling” employees.

Workers have to do three or four jobs on one pathetic salary.

The consequences have become apparent over the last few years.

Workers are increasingly suffering from stress-related disorders, many families are dysfunctional, substance abuse is rife, productivity and service quality levels are dropping, strikes are increasing in frequency, duration and violence, businesses are shutting down, while the satisfaction levels of employers and employees stutter towards decline.

In my opinion, there are at least 10 unemployed people for every job still available – and employers know it. This forces workers to choose between exploitation and starvation, a state of affairs which is unsustainable and toxic for everyone.

To use a military analogy, when a force based on quality rather than quantity is attacked by a numerically superior foe, it must simultaneously deploy enough troops to stop the first wave and attack follow-up forces behind enemy lines to survive.

Therefore, to secure the present, South Africa’s economic role-players must plan sustainable and equitable labour relations for the future and lay the long-term groundwork now rather than later.

If government, trade unions, employers and employees don’t do this while rational discussions are still possible, we have almost no hope of success in three to five years.

This is when high youth unemployment, labour unrest and increased pressures on employers may lead to an irreparable socio-economic breakdown in which irrationality will be the order of the day.

-M Negres, Port Elizabeth

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