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THE NATIONAL BARGAINING COUNCIL FOR THE ROAD FREIGHT INDUSTRY – A SOUTH AFRICAN

Prior to the political change in 1994, South African collective bargaining was characterised by high levels of adversarialism and conflict with a strong focus on positions, demands, power and war talk. It was also frequently accompanied by strikes, boycotts and violence.

THE NATIONAL BARGAINING COUNCIL FOR THE ROAD FREIGHT INDUSTRY – A SOUTH AFRICAN CASE STUDY [1]

By John Brand [2]

 

BACKGROUND

Prior to the political change in 1994, South African collective bargaining was characterised by high levels of adversarialism and conflict with a strong focus on positions, demands, power and war talk.  It was also frequently accompanied by strikes, boycotts and violence.  There were 3.9 million workdays lost to industrial action in 1994 compared to 0.7 million in 2003.  The negotiations took place in a highly charged political environment in which workers regularly perceived employers to be part of the apartheid enemy.  Strikes often mirrored protest action on the streets of South African townships.  The “toyi toyi” dance was as much a part of industrial action as it was of “mass action” which was aimed at the overthrow of the political order.  Armoured cars, police dogs and tear gas accompanied industrial action as often as they accompanied protest action.

 

The negotiation agenda was also a highly politicised one with demands like those for paid holidays on May Day and June 16 (the day of the Soweto student uprising).  Frequently political campaigns such as those for the release of Nelson Mandela overflowed into the workplace and onto the bargaining table.  Many workplaces were plastered with political slogans, and t-shirts bearing political statements were common apparel.  Some workers even came to work brandishing wooden replica AK-47 assault rifles while right wing activists carried real guns and wore khaki uniforms as a counter.  Strike action was a crime and a dismissible offence with mass dismissals a frequent occurrence.  The police were often called in to “deal with” striking workers and it was not unusual for employers to use informers and to secretly monitor worker telephones and meetings.

 

ASSUMPTIONS AND TACTICS BEFORE 1994

The fundamental underlying assumption of the negotiating parties in the pre-1994 era was that they were at war and that the outcome of the negotiations was either win or lose, or at best a temporary truce or compromise.  The idea of partnership and mutual gains was virtually non-existent.  Employers feared worker control and Unions feared co-option.

 

Typically the parties consulted their constituencies and received extreme and relatively fixed and inflexible mandates.  In preparing for negotiations they would determine in advance what their opening, ideal and fallback positions on each issue would be.  They would then decide the order in which they would make concessions and how they would apply pressure on the other party.  Most of their preparations centered on planning for potential strike action.  Unions would strategise how to win mass support both amongst the workforce and from the community and how they could nullify the impact of “scab" labour.  Employers on the other hand would spend much time preparing strike contingency plans and ensuring that they had good relations with the police and other authorities.

 

Before the negotiations commenced the Unions would conventionally deliver a letter of demand containing these extreme demands on a wide range of issues.  At the negotiating table the union would commence the negotiations by repeating these demands and delivering a political speech to the employer about the sins of apartheid and the employer’s complicity with it.

 

Typically, the employers would respond with extremely low counter offers and then set about demeaning the Unions with volumes of statistics and data.  Central to both parties’ thinking was the belief that the higher the demand and the lower the counter offer the more likely it was that the midway compromise would favour them.

 

Negotiations would then progress very slowly from one concession to the other.  In making these moves the parties would tend to exaggerate the value of their own moves while minimising the value of the others’.  They would tend to manipulate information to hide that which was harmful to their position and to emphasise that which undermined their opponent’s.  Adversarial, political rhetoric and increasing levels of anger and frustration invariably accompanied the negotiations.

 

As the process progressed, the parties would often remove issues from the negotiation table in return for the other party doing likewise until only the most pressing issue, usually wages, were left.  The result was that year after year important structural matters like efficiency and worker participation would remain unaddressed.  As it became increasingly difficult to bridge the gap between them the parties inevitably resorted to the use of power to pressurise each other.  This would range from fairly benign go slows to all out strike action, boycotts and violence.

 

Sadly, because workers were in an extremely weak position in the apartheid State, Unions were frequently forced to capitulate or compromise to outcomes which were of limited value to them.  Both parties would leave the negotiations angered and dissatisfied with the process and the outcome.  This in turn sowed the seeds for revenge in future engagements.

ASSUMPTIONS AND TACTICS AFTER 1994

Without doubt the atmosphere in which collective bargaining has taken place since 1994 has improved dramatically.  Today one very seldom hears of violent strike action or of police involvement in industrial relations although it still does happen from time to time.  The negotiation agenda is also, perhaps with the exception of employment equity, almost entirely focused on conventional wage and working condition issues.  There has also been a dramatic decline in the incidence of strike action.  Industrial action that does occur is most often orderly and protected strike action regulated by agreed picketing rules.  Mass dismissals are very exceptional and strikes no longer attract criminal sanction.  That is the good news.

 

The bad news is that, with a few exceptions, the negotiation style of the parties has remained relatively adversarial and positional.  Parties still tend to prepare for negotiations by determining in advance what their opening, ideal and fallback positions on each issue will be and then enter the negotiations with relatively fixed and inflexible mandates.

 

They continue to open the negotiations with extreme demands and low counter positions and then progress slowly from one concession to the other.  Problem analysis and information flow remains stunted, and adversarial rhetoric and high levels of anger and frustration often accompany the process.  The parties also often trade the removal of structural and non-distributive issues from the agenda in order to focus on wage related issues only.

 

Although the use of power is less prevalent than it was in the past, it is still often used as the perceived means to bridge the gap between the parties’ positions.  The usual outcome of negotiations remains a compromise, often with significant loss of face to one or both parties.  The result is that the parties still leave feeling dissatisfied with the process and its outcome.

 

Although a suite of labour-friendly laws has dramatically improved basic worker rights, the economic power of workers remains very weak.  They are perhaps even less powerful now than before.  Retrenchment and unemployment have grown and solidarity within the broader community has declined with the advent of the new political order.  The typical imbalance of power between capital and labour which is present in many capitalist economies and which was aggravated by hundreds of years of colonialism and apartheid subjugation remains.  The consequence is that, in many cases, after a brief show of force and an exchange of militant rhetoric most negotiations end in a meek capitulation by Unions to outcomes, which are more valuable to employers than to workers.

 

THE ALTERNATIVE

Fortunately numerous parties have found that there is an alternative to this traditional process[3].  These parties have learnt from the negotiating techniques used to facilitate our political transition that there is another way.  Those that have made the change have often done so after a series of very damaging negotiation experiences that have forced them to want to do things differently.

 

Some shrewd union strategists have realised that the exclusive use of strike action to win worker benefits is futile in a society in which the imbalance of power between capital and labour is so pronounced.  They have recognised that alternative ways have to be found to get what workers need.  Instead of dismissing the interests of employers they seek to identify those interests and to exploit maximum advantage from meeting them whilst at the same time protecting worker needs.

 

For example, they appreciate that in order for employers to compete globally, they need the latitude to work flexibly to maximise the output from expensive capital equipment.  Instead of refusing to engage with employers on this issue they do so after first ensuring an inflation related wage increase.  They then extract additional percentage increases in return for co-operating (without undue sacrifice) in endeavours to address the employers’ interest.  This process is often repeated in relation to other interests so that the Union manages to secure benefits for workers far exceeding those that could be won by the use of brute force.  Of course the quid pro quo is a price that employers are happy to pay.  They are under pressure to compete in a global market and to comply with legislation which demands major changes and restructuring of the workplace.  They have found that the old methods are less effective to achieve the kind of structural changes they require in order to remain competitive in a global market and changed South Africa.

 

THE ROAD FREIGHT EXAMPLE

The example which this paper will focus on is what has transpired in the South African Road Freight Industry.  The National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight Industry is the negotiation forum in which the Road Freight Employers Association and five Unions negotiate nationally on wages and working conditions for drivers and other workers employed in the South African Road Freight Industry.  The Employers Association represents 654 employers and the Unions represent 32 000 employees. Their collective agreement is extended to a total of 3200 employers and 60 000 employees in terms of the Labour Relations Act.

 

For five years, that Industry had a series of very unsatisfactory negotiations.  On at least two occasions the negotiations culminated in compromise wage deals after very disruptive and costly strike action.  In the process, important structural changes, which were essential for the success of the Industry, were not made.  There was an urgent need to address, among other issues, productivity, flexibility, outsourcing, casualisation, HIV/Aids, job grading, hours of work and job security.  However, year after year, these matters fell by the wayside as the parties narrowed their fight to wages only.  That fight was characterised by all the well-known features of positional bargaining and they generally culminated in outcomes which were of very low value to all the parties.

 

Eventually, after a particularly damaging strike which included truck blockades of major roads and street demonstrations, the parties agreed to try to do things differently.  In 2001 they agreed to undergo joint training in mutual gains negotiation[4] and, thereafter, to address the many outstanding issues which had fallen by the wayside in the past years in the positional fight over wages.  They attended a facilitated pre-negotiation meeting and, in the space of a few months, a series of facilitated task teams tackled these difficult structural issues and a detailed agreement was reached between them.[5] The parties were delighted with both the process and the outcome.

 

Nico Badenhorst, spokesperson for the Employer’s Organisation, summed up the thoughts of the parties when he said:

In using the previous 5 years as a yard stick, the industry negotiations that took place after the introduction of the “mutual gains” approach, was beyond comparison.  The culmination of the training, the workshop and the facilitated negotiations was a settlement that:

·         addressed some of the most complex issues ever confronted;

·         relegated the traditional, adversarial approach to one with very limited application;

·         reflected solutions that addressed the matters in issue;

·         resulted in an agreement concluded in the shortest period ever with neither party opting for the “power play” alternative.

The utilisation of facilitators during the negotiations proved to be extremely successful in assisting the parties to utilise and jointly apply the mutual gains approach.  Without the application of the mutual gains approach and the assistance of the facilitators, the parties would not have been able to obtain the results they have during negotiations”.

 

In the following three years the process of training and facilitation was successfully repeated but in the fourth year the parties decided to go it alone.  They did not undergo refresher training nor were their negotiations facilitated.  The negotiations culminated in a strike which the parties believed was occasioned by new people on the negotiating teams being unfamiliar with mutual gain negotiation and existing members falling back into bad ways.  Accordingly they decided to reinvigorate their negotiations for the 2005/2006 round.  What follows is a detailed account of those negotiations.

 

JOINT TRAINING

Parties who have made the change from highly adversarial bargaining to mutual gains negotiation recognise that there is a need to do things differently and central to that change is a joint understanding of the essence of mutual gains negotiation.  Both parties need to play the new game so it is essential that they make a joint commitment to do things differently and jointly attend training in the new methodology.

 

In July 2005 the 30 member Road Freight negotiating team participated in a two day facilitated interactive training session[6]. 

 

The training helped them to identify what the obstacles were to effective negotiation and how they may be overcome.  They jointly learnt that at the core of the mutual gains approach is an assumption that it is possible to find an outcome which is simultaneously of mutual value to both of them.  In order to do this they discovered that they needed to understand the underlying problems first before choosing solutions.  They came to appreciate that one of the fundamental flaws of traditional bargaining is that the parties start with solutions to problems before they have jointly understood them and they obtain mandates for the solution without any proper grasp of the other parties’ needs and interests.  They realised that by meeting another’s needs and interests, they may be able to have their needs met as well.

 

In the joint training the negotiators learned how a failure to recognise each other’s underlying needs and interests is perceived to be an attack on the humanity and dignity of the other.  This in turn sets up a mutually destructive adversarial dynamic which stands in the way of sensible outcomes.  They saw that an open and honest exchange of information was vital to a proper understanding of any problem and to the development of mutual trust.  They jointly realised that there is seldom one solution to a problem and that if they calmly and creatively explore a range of solutions they will often find one solution or a combination of solutions which simultaneously addresses both of their needs and concerns.  They were also taught how to accurately assess their own and their negotiating partners’ best alternatives to a negotiated agreement and to realise the limitations of the resort to power alternatives.

 

PRE-NEGOTIATION MEETING

With this understanding the parties attended a pre-negotiation workshop[7] at which they agreed that the goal of their negotiation was to achieve a mutual gain outcome which was simultaneously of maximum value to all negotiating parties.  They also agreed to follow a set of negotiation guidelines.

 

The parties then exchanged written proposals for the negotiation.  It was recognised that it would be preferable not to exchange proposals before exploring needs and concerns because of the potential to become unnecessarily positional.  One of their challenges however was to manage their principals’ expectations that demands and counter demands had to be made.  It was accordingly agreed that proposals and counter proposals would be exchanged on the understanding that they would form the basis for a discussion about underlying needs and interests.

 

These proposals were formally tabled at the negotiations and a very detailed discussion then took place between the parties on the needs and concerns which underpinned the proposals.  There was also a detailed exchange of supporting data and an exploration of areas of possible trade.

 

Thereafter it was agreed that there were 19 issues which needed to be addressed in the negotiations.  Those were:

 

1.              Division of the Industry into sectors;

2.              The harmonisation of wages and working conditions across the Industry;

3.              Labour brokers;

4.              The Bargaining Unit;

5.              Section 21(11)(b) of the existing Collective Agreement

6.              A Charter on theft and corruption;

7.              Standard trip times;

8.              Night shift;

9.              Wages;

10.          Provident fund;

11.          Medical aid;

12.          Long service;

13.          Housing;

14.          Night out allowance;

15.          Day off in the cash in transit sector;

16.          Cross boarder allowance;

17.          Long distance guarantee in the fuel sector;

18.          Sunday work;

19.          Change of agreement cycle.

 

The parties then agreed on a series of two-day facilitated negotiation sessions commencing at the end of October 2005.  It was also agreed that the parties would revert to their principals in order to convey to them what had taken place at the meeting and in order to get flexible mandates from them for the negotiations.

 

COMMENCEMENT OF NEGOTIATIONS

The negotiations then commenced at the end of October 2005 and continued for 12 days until agreement was reached at the beginning of February 2006.

 

In the negotiation process the facilitator developed a continuous working document which captured areas of actual agreement, proposals and counter proposals and, in limited cases, suggestions by the facilitator to bridge areas of disagreement.  This document went through a great many drafts until it evolved into the ultimate Agreement between the parties.

 

TRADE IN NEEDS AND CONCERNS

In the course of the negotiations the parties focussed on each other’s needs and concerns and the agreement as a whole represents a balance between these underlying needs and concerns.  For example the parties settled for a wage increase of 7.5% after the strike in 2005, yet agreed to a lesser increase of 6.5% in the 2006 Agreement.  This was because many of the Unions’ needs were met elsewhere in the Agreement.  The most pressing one concerned the harmonisation of wages and working conditions across the Industry.  Agreement on this issue had eluded the parties for many years because of the potential cost to the employers of harmonising upwards and the potential cost to employees of harmonising downwards.  The solution is a classic example of a mutual gains solution.

 

To appreciate the value of the outcome to both parties it is necessary to put it in context.  The Bargaining Council is a merger between two regional Councils.  The one Council had a Sick Fund into which employers paid 12 days pay for each worker.  One day’s pay would be deducted from the workers’ Sick Fund for each day of sick leave and the balance would be paid out to the worker at the end of the year.  The original purpose of the Sick Fund payout was to act as an incentive to not take unnecessary sick leave.  The other Council did not have such a fund and at the merger the employers from that Council resisted introducing one because of the cost and because the purpose of the Sick Fund in the other Council had not been realised.  What happened was that workers took unauthorised leave instead of sick leave and then claimed their full Sick Fund payout at the end of each year.

 

The outcome contained in the harmonisation clause of the agreement:

  • gave employers what they needed on short time across the Industry;
  • gave the Unions what they needed in relation to leave pay and holiday bonus across the Industry whilst meeting employer concerns by way of an exemption process;
  • gave employers what they needed on Saturday work whilst addressing Union concerns about Saturdays off;
  • most importantly met the employers concerns about sick and unauthorised leave by converting the Sick Fund into a Sick and Absence Fund and providing that both a workers’ sick and unauthorised leave would be deducted from the Fund payout and paid back to the employer; and
  • furthermore the Fund would be extended to the whole Industry and be phased in over four years to cushion the cash flow impact on employers.

 

The cost of harmonisation for the majority of employers was an increase of approximately 2.5% of their wage bill but they were prepared to incur this expense because their needs in relation to short time, Saturday pay, leave pay, holiday bonus and unauthorised absence were addressed.  Furthermore their needs for action on theft and corruption, the agreement cycle and sectoral flexibility were met elsewhere in the Agreement.

 

In addition, the agreement

  • on Labour Brokers represents a very complex and delicate balance of employer and worker interests in regard to atypical labour.
  • introduces separate chambers into the Council to permit greater flexibility and variance of terms and conditions from sector to sector which was a major employer need.
  • addresses theft and corruption in the Industry which was a concern raised by the employers.
  • deals with night work which was a concern raised by the Unions.
  • deals with the Unions’ concerns about a practice in the fuel sector which had the effect of significantly reducing the remuneration of fuel sector workers.
  • puts in place processes to deal with medical aid which was a major need identified by the Unions.
  • puts in place a process to address one of the employers’ needs on which they placed great value namely flexibility in relation to Sunday work in the retail delivery sector.
  • meets a major Union need to be recognised in a broader bargaining unit subject to employer concerns about managers and conflicts of interest being addressed in the agreement.
  • deals with standard trip time which is intended to address a long standing concern in the Industry about drivers working excessive overtime in order to increase their take home pay.  The Standard Trip Time Project is one aimed at agreeing on standard trip time for routes and paying per trip rather than per hour.

 

LESSONS AND CHALLENGES

There are numerous lessons and challenges which emerge from the Road Freight Industry’s experience of mutual gains negotiation.

 

ENVIRONMENT

Perhaps the most fundamental lesson is that mutual gains negotiation cannot take place without freedom of association, including the right to strike.  There needs to be a reasonable balance of power between the parties which is absent without both the right and ability to strike.  The greater the imbalance of power between the parties the more difficult it is to achieve mutual gain ends.

 

Both parties also have to recognise each other as legitimate stakeholders rather than enemies that have to be defeated.  They need to recognise their dependence and independence and accept that they may have overlapping and different interests.

 

They all have to be committed to change from the adversarial win/lose assumption of the past otherwise the process has limited prospects of success.  Regrettably it seems that parties have to experience high levels of adversarialism and conflict before they are ready to change and explore alternatives.  A challenge for a facilitator is to know when the time is right to intervene with a prospect of making a difference.

 

FACILITATION

Independent facilitation of the negotiations from the outset is also very important.  Between 2001 and 2005, facilitated negotiation assisted the parties to reach mutual gain outcomes.  In 2005 when the parties tried to go it alone, their negotiations culminated in deadlock and industrial action.  They report that without the assistance of a facilitator they tended to drift back into positional ways.  Furthermore they recognised that historical lack of trust between them had not been overcome and they found that, without the bridging assistance of the facilitator, lack of trust and poor communication remained a hurdle in their negotiations.  Because there are many elements of the mutual gains approach to negotiation which are radically different from the traditional positional approach it is essential for a facilitator to be present throughout to assist the parties to do many things which are counter intuitive for them.

 

JOINT TRAINING

The value of joint training in mutual gains negotiation cannot be overstated.  In certain instances employers have undergone needs based and mutual gain training without their Union counterparts doing likewise.  In these instances employers have at worst had their newfound openness and needs focus exploited by adversarial and positional Trade Unions.  At best they have had to endeavour to subtly get the Union party to focus on underlying needs and interests but this has not born nearly as much fruit as when both parties understand and are skilled in mutual gains negotiation.  If the parties are not exposed to the fact that in reality it is possible to achieve outcomes which are of greater value to both parties than mere compromise they will continue to have the assumption that there are only three possible outcomes to their negotiation namely win, lose or compromise.  It is only once parties realise that there is something better, that they are able to enter the negotiations with the assumption that if they work hard they can find a mutual gain outcome.  Without this mindset it is impossible to make the necessary change.

 

It is essential for the facilitator to ensure that all the major players on both negotiation teams are present throughout the training.  This requires the facilitator to be trusted by both teams and to have the capacity to encourage the parties to train jointly.  If any major player is absent at the initial stages of the engagement, it is very likely that that player will prove to be very disruptive due to a lack of understanding and buy into the new process.

 

It is also essential to conduct regular refresher training so that new members of the negotiating team are familiarised with mutual gains negotiation and existing members are reminded of its fundamentals.

 

In South Africa and other developing countries the negotiation teams often have a huge range of levels of literacy, education and experience.  There are also major language, cultural and class differences.  Training in this environment throws up a whole range of challenges which are a study in themselves.

 

ACCOMMODATING DEMANDS

One of the greatest challenges in making the move away from positional bargaining is, ideally, to ensure that the parties start by putting a problem on the table and by analysing it before moving on to seek and then evaluate and choose solutions.  The tradition of starting with demands is so entrenched that, even with training, it is difficult to get the parties to do things differently.  This is not only a matter of changing bad habits but also because, even when the representatives of the parties have been trained, they remain answerable to constituencies who expect things to be done in the traditional militant way.  It therefore requires some subtlety on the part of the facilitator and the parties to recognise this and allow demands to be put on the table but to convert them into proposals which are held over until a proper problem analysis has been completed when they can be treated as just one possible solution during the solution search stage of the process.

 

THE NEGOTIATION PARADOX

The facilitator and the parties need to be sensitive to a negotiation paradox.  On the one hand a needs based and mutual gains approach to negotiations is likely to deliver a strong outcome, but the process of achieving this may be perceived to be weak by the party’s principals.  On the other hand a tough and militant positional stance may appear to be strong to the principals but it usually delivers a weak outcome.  The facilitator and the parties need to manage this in a way which does result in a strong outcome but without the representatives appearing to be weak.  As appreciation of the benefits of mutual gains negotiation is cascaded down into organisations the problem is easier to manage[8] but in the Road Freight Industry it remains a difficult one to manage.  This is perhaps because there are so many different employers involved.  Where there is a single employer it is much easier to achieve this cultural change.

 

THE MANDATING PROCESS

It is also necessary for the facilitator to endeavour to change the traditional mandating process in order to put problem analysis before solution search.  Instead of both parties starting the negotiations by seeking positional mandates from their principals it would be ideal to delay the mandating process until after the problem analysis stage.  In reality it has been necessary for the facilitator to accommodate pressure from the representatives’ principals and to allow them to receive mandates at an early stage.  However the representatives need to be encouraged to obtain mandates which are as flexible as possible and which accommodate the possibility of considering other solutions if they meet the underlying interests which motivate the chosen position.  It is also important to encourage the representatives to start lowering expectations at a very early stage.

 

THE USE OF PRE-NEGOTIATION MEETINGS

What has proved very useful in changing the traditional mandating process is for the facilitator to commence the negotiations with problem analysis, issue identification, interest exploration and solution search at a pre-negotiation meeting before the parties go back to their principals for mandates on possible solutions.  These meetings can also be used to negotiate on how to negotiate and to reach agreement on the aim of the negotiations, negotiation guidelines and timetables.

 

PROBLEM ANALYSIS

It is a significant challenge for the facilitator to ensure that the parties are thorough at the problem analysis stage.  They are often very impatient to get to the solution stage.  However, unless time is taken to look at underlying causes of problems and to seriously explore the parties’ underlying interests, fears, needs and concerns one is unlikely to find a mutual gains solution.  This is particularly so in relation to complex integrative issues.  It is also very important for the facilitator to ensure a proper and credible exchange of information at this problem analysis stage.  Both the exchange of credible information and the generation of creative solution options can be facilitated by the joint appointment, by the parties, of credible consultants and experts.

 

SOLUTION SEARCH

Once the process does move into the solution search phase it is very important for the facilitator to find ways to encourage creative lateral thinking in the generation of possible options.  Even with training, parties remain relatively uncreative in generating solutions which, in combination with one another, will achieve a mutual gains outcome.  Processes like creative brainstorms are very difficult to manage in large groups such as the 30 member Freight negotiating team.  As a facilitator one is forced to work in smaller task teams in order to make brainstorming effective.  It is also sometimes necessary to do the brainstorming in separate party groups because creativity is often stifled by mistrust and fear of exploitation in mixed groups.

 

TRADING

A major challenge for both the facilitator and the parties is to regularly stand back from the total negotiation and think about possible trades across issues.  Whilst it is useful to work on issues in separate task teams, it is important to avoid being trapped in issue silos.  Often if one party is prepared to address the other party’s concerns on one issue, the other party may be prepared to do likewise on another issue.  Particularly when distributive issues are being dealt with, one needs to seek to “expand the pie” by addressing employer interests on the one hand and to facilitate meeting employee distributive needs on the other.  It is therefore necessary, at appropriate times, to break out of issue silos and to look for trades between issues.

 

SOLUTION COMBINATION

It is also important for the facilitator to get the parties to look for combinations of solutions to an issue which address different needs and concerns and in doing so realise mutual gain.


 

RECORDING PROGRESS

In order to record and reflect progress in the negotiations it is very important for the facilitator to have a working document which grows from the commencement of the negotiation into the final agreement at its conclusion.  Early in the negotiation the document will be more like a minute and record issues, needs, interests, fears, concerns and proposals and counter-proposals.  As the negotiation proceeds it will progress into more of a single text document reflecting areas of actual agreement, disagreement and possible agreement.  In the final stages of the negotiation it will contain a series of draft agreements which are refined to ensure that there is eventually an accurate record of what has been agreed to between the parties and one which is unlikely to give rise to future interpretation disputes.

 

CONCLUSION

The Road Freight case study demonstrates that notwithstanding a history of conflict and adversarialism it is possible to move toward a more co-operative approach to negotiation which delivers outcomes of relatively high quality.  It does not eradicate the different interests of business and labour but recognises both the inter-dependence and independence of the parties and manages these more effectively.

 

The move from positional to mutual gains negotiation is not an easy road to travel and calls for strong leadership and commitment from representatives of capital and labour.  It cannot take place effectively without joint training and skilled facilitation.  It is also very easy to regress into adversarial positional ways.  The Road Freight Industry in South Africa has shown that it is the most effective way to negotiate over complex structural change issues which have to be addressed in a developing country like South Africa.

 

If South Africa is to succeed in it’s quest for growth, investment and job security, many more Unions and employers will have to move away from traditional, adversarial collective bargaining to co-operative, mutual gains strategies in the way in which the Road Freight Industry has done.

  



[1] The parties to this negotiation have consented to this disclosure of confidential information given during the facilitation process

[2] Mediator, arbitrator, facilitator and trainer – Bowman Gilfillan, South Africa (see resume Annexure “A”)

 

[3] Leading examples of organizations which have made the change are Rand Water, which entered into a complex partnership agreement in 1995, the Furniture Bargaining Council, the Motor Ferrier Industry, De Beers, Nestle, Impala Platinum and Bankserve.

[4] The training was done by John Brand and Felicity Steadman.

[5] The task teams were facilitated by John Brand and Felicity Steadman.

[6] The training was done by John Brand.

[7] Facilitated by John Brand

[8] For example at Rand Water, where over the past ten years training has been extended to the Board of Directors and all the various joint plant committees the problems are not as marked.

 
 
   

 

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