Miners on strike chant slogans as they march in Nkaneng township outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg earlier this month. The writer says a company should see itself as a team that benefits during good times and tightens its belt when times are lean. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Traditionally there has been tension and sometimes conflict between the “owners of the means of production” and the labour force, organised or not.

This is not the most efficient way to conduct a relationship and new ways are needed. In fact, it is surprising that eminent leaders on both sides of the divide have not come up with a win-win situation. And this is particularly relevant to the current extended strike on the platinum belt.

People are suffering, yet the leadership, on both sides, are failing them and do not seem to care about their plight.

There is one exception, as far as I know, and that is Kumba Iron Ore. It has established a fund for the benefit of workers into which a percentage of profits is paid and distributed at certain intervals.

The last distribution was in the region of R500 000, even for the lowest category of worker.

Even if one divides that by 60 months, it is more than R8 000 for every month worked and must have an immense impact on the lives of those workers. Kumba is a trailblazer and its model should be considered by all commercial entities.

The logic is simple: A company should see itself as a team. In good and in bad times. Different job descriptions command different remuneration levels but every worker should feel a valued part of the team.

This will have clear benefits. It should be explained to workers that they will be part of the team and be paid a living wage, and that in good times they will benefit handsomely by bonus payments and in bad times they may have to tighten their belt, as will everybody. They will in fact be stakeholders.

This should not be to the detriment of any company, as it will be a strong motivator. In current circumstances, where the worker has no stake, anyone who is “lazy” and gets away with it may be viewed as a hero. As a stakeholder, any “lazy” worker will be pulled up by his colleagues, as it would affect their benefits too.

Like in many situations in life, honesty is required. If people sit together and agree on a good model, there will be no need for strikes and millions in revenue will not be lost.

Why not pay some of those lost millions to the workers and create a happy atmosphere?

What is required is a change of culture. Instead of confrontation, let it be co-operation. This would create a win-win situation.

As an incidental benefit it would force organised labour to review their confrontational approach, in order to stay relevant. Because currently they are causing damage not only to employers and the country but also to their own members.

Richard Gruning

Edenglen, Edenvale