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Perceptions on the impact of strikes on productivity at selected mines in the mining sector of Namibia
Sihlahla, Kyllikki Taina Niita Ndangi
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The mining sector has been the backbone of the Namibian economy since Namibia attained its independence. However, the disruptive nature of the numerous strikes that are experienced in the mining sector has prompted this study that explores the perceptions held by different stakeholders on the impact of strikes on the productivity of three selected mines in Namibia. The selected mines are Langer Heinrich mine, Navachab Gold mine and Skorpion Zinc mine. Labour disputes in Namibia’s mining sector have a long history dating back to the colonial era. A myriad of factors that include, amongst others, poor remuneration, unfair labour practices, poor social and housing amenities, perceived discrimination and harsh working conditions are major triggers for mining sector strikes. Strikes are mostly conducted by employees when they fail to amicably resolve a labour dispute with their employers. Employees are normally perceived as the backbone of any organisation. Conflicts, however, are part of human nature and can only be avoided, in most cases, if people are conscious of the consequences of their actions and reactions, hence, the need to explore the perceptions of stakeholders on the impact of strikes on the productivity of the selected mines. Human perceptions are dynamic in nature. Irrespective of this fact, in this research questionnaires were administered to obtain the perceptions of mine management, miners and trade union members on the effects of strikes on the productivity of the three selected mines. A different questionnaire was designed to gather the views of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW) officials since in most cases they are involved in conciliating the disputing parties. Generally, strikes have negative impacts not only on the organisation concerned, but also on the Namibian economy at large. The mines selected for this research are situated in the Khomas, Erongo and Karas regions of Namibia. Most mining companies in Namibia are located in Erongo and Karas, whereas Windhoek, which is in the Khomas region, mainly houses some of these mines headquarters. A five-point Likert scale was used to gather data in the survey. Specialised software called Statistical Program for Social Scientists (SPSS) was then used to analyse the data. Although the results indicate that in most cases the striking parties are aware of the adverse effects of strikes on productivity of the mines, they still opt to use strikes as a bargaining weapon. Since conflicts are always bound to arise where two or more parties interact, this study recommends that there should always be a conciliator who tries to amicably resolve disputes by sensitising each party on the consequences of strikes. The study also recommends a model which emphasises the need to thoroughly inform the mineworkers and the mine management on the ripple effects of strikes and on the need to achieve a win-win situation for all the parties that are involved in a conflict. The model emphasises that although the employees and the employers can individually and separately approach the official, which is the MLSW, such official should always provide open feedback to the feuding parties through a tripartite negotiation forum, otherwise any other type of covert feedback may be misinterpreted as bias by one of the feuding parties. The model further explains that at all times direct negotiations between employees and their employers must be kept open, as it is possible that agreements that can reduce strike action may be reached without necessarily engaging a third party.
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