Strike while the Iron is Hot, New Jobs

Get a glimpse behind the corporate glass with HR Future’s workplace radical

Remember the story that Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree and when it fell on his head, he came up with the Law of Gravitation?  Well. many organisations and individuals have been whacked by falling lemons in the past month. No lemonades.

The longest economic boom in living memory is faltering for now – the surge in fuel prices, interest rates and inflation have gripped the wallets of South Africans. Throw in the migraine headaches of the National Credit Act on acquiring debt, the feeling that we are being ripped off (bank charges to make you weep) and nagging concerns about basic supplies – power and milk. However lemonade is still possible, the fuel price is retracing by a stingy 8 cents as this column went to print and the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting this month will be a close call on interest rates.

Strike a Rock

Maybe I am being nuts but it seems primitive in the relationship economy that employees need labour unions to champion their cause, especially on the wage front. What happened to talent management here? Where did ‘new’ style trust go?  I am bored of watching a stupid miltant style confrontation in slow motion. Hard nosed employers and fiery union leaders hold hands on a predictable path. Circular discussions dominate for months as the parties size up each other and waste time on management meetings. Followed by absurd wage offer/demands of 100% differentials that will never be accepted in such form. I outrageously claim it has something to do with money falling from gravity defying trees in Sandton boardrooms After more rounds of wage haggling without real negotiation, D-Day is set for industrial strike action.  It is supposed to be the ultimate bargaining chip to “force” the employer’s hand on wage settlement. Inevitably, the unions motivate their troops (confused employees) into battle (onto public spaces) with their livelihoods frozen. Here is a teamwork poster for the office: ecstatic employees with their values on placards, toyi-toying on a unified mission for an extra R120 per R1000. Must be an unintended consequence of those vision/mission and team building workshops, funded by employers during peaceful times. Fortunately, employers don’t show up on the day. They stay warm in their glass towers with system reports on the bottom line losses. In the public sector strike, if the labour unions are solely judged on their 12% demand, then 7.5% is a disastrous settlement. Forget the rhetoric about pushing government to increase their offer and proving that workers are valuable. I doubt that public servants have computed the number of years to recoup their lost wages during the strike. The dust had barely settled on the public service strike when the private sector moved into high alert.  Will private sector unions fare better?

On a related note, a strike that has steadily drawn attention, was the fallout between Vodacom and the Communication Workers Union (CWU). It is ironical in that Vodacom’s refusal to recognise the 1200 strong CWU as a representative labour movement, it has only served to amplify their prominence and impact in the market. While Vodacom may be correct in holding out for the 30% threshold, I imagine the percentage damage in HR terms to be higher. Employees are alienated, suspicious of management moves and dissatisfied.  Tons of trust building work for HR ahead.

New Jobs

Looking for a new job in cyberspace? Here are five potential positions for technology enabled applicants:

Mxit Expert – if you think there is a spelling mistake, don’t bother to apply. You may have the experts living with you if they are under the ager of 16.

Pain Management Blogger – the keyword is “blogger”, You should already have an impressive CV on the latter, from your experience in HR.

Facebook Compliance Officer – apparently there are over 120 000* South Africans on this social networking site. This position is for those control freaks that want to monitor employees, desperate to connect with others on your company bandwith.

SEO Strategist – means Search Engine Optimisation Strategist for those that like intelligent sounding titles on their business card. Go Google your name or your company to check how the search engines have treated you

Muti Messenger – it works as well as the real muti without bodily harm. An entry level position for budding PR candidates.

* outdated figure

(HR Future, August 2007)

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