by Palesa Tshandu and Luca Kotton
Legal ballot voting in the industrial relations sector can be used to prevent violent strike action and promote solidarity among mine-workers, according to Prof Edward Webster.
“A ballot means that there is a democratic mandate that will pre-empt strikes,” suggests Webster who was speaking at phase two of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry panel discussion held at Wits University yesterday.
The discussion forms part of a series of seminars that examines violence in the industrial relations sector, an example of which led to the killing of 34 mine-workers at Lonmin mine in Marikana on August 16, 2012.
According to Webster, a Wits sociology professor, the process of ballot voting will be used as a tool for mine-workers to have some control in the decision-making process of strike action. Ultimately, this process will result in a negotiated outcome among mine-workers and their employers.
Power inequalities must be addressed
Society Work and Development Institute (SWOP) fellow and researcher Chrispen Chinguno suggests that the democratisation of the mining sector is necessary to address power inequalities that exist among mine-workers which ultimately promotes a culture of violence.
Chinguno challenges the concept of a ballot system drawing on the participation of miners as integral to the process of striking. He said, “a ballot works as an individual vote, striking needs participation”.
According to Webster, the introduction of the ballot system in the industrial relations sector offers an alternative approach to the prevalence of violence, as it calls for miners to act in a democratic manner when addressing conflict.
The suggestion of a ballot for miners was met with mixed reactions. One miner said: “We know that they will break us, they want to divide us, and we know this.’’
In the coming weeks the Commission will host other discussions on the violence that occurred at Marikana.
Wits Vuvuzela: Striking miners should have a fund: expert, 1 April 2014
Wits Vuvuzela: VIDEO: Marikana first anniversary, 16 August 2013