Personeelvermindering binne ondernemingsverband : 'n verkennende studie
Retrenchment in the South African context is a very contentious issue when considering the high percentage of joblessness which is as high as 45%. The high jobless ratio exarcebate the position of the retrenched employee as he has very little chance of entering the job market where his skills has a low demand. From an employee's point of view, a job is a social institution providing financial rewards and satisfying psychological needs. The loss of a job leads to a loss in security and impairs an employee's psychological needs, which results in abnormal behaviour such as depression and aggression. Employers do not have the necessary skills and knowledge to treat retrenchments with sensitivity, especially given the psychological impact it has on both outgoing and surviving members. The state as the third party to the labour relationship also has a role to play in setting the procedures, dispute resolution mechanisms and support structures through legislation so as to ensure fair treatment of all parties during retrenchments. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM With the entry of South Africa into international markets, pressure affects profitability in consequence of high production costs per unit. Therefore, three hypothetical scenarios may develop within an enterprise for it to become more competitive as a survival strategy. These are: • Enterprises may introduce advanced technology to improve output, quality, and/or decrease cost per unit produced, resulting in redundancies. • Enterprises reorganize, re-deploy, re-engineer, re-design or close branches so as to improve output levels. • Enterprises endeavour to decrease their workforce by utilizing early retirement and natural attrition as a method of scheduling excess costs. Furthermore, productivity and South Africa 's problematic labour force legacies are also identified as contributory factors in respect of enterprises' decreasing the workforce by introducing technology and mechanizing their operations. High wage demands cannot be ruled out as an additional factor contributing towards a decrease in labour demand. Enterprises would spend more on introducing technology rather than labour so as to produce an item generated by conflicting pressures. By far the most strikes experienced in South Africa, are for wages. The purpose of this study and research would, therefore, focus on the destabilizing effect retrenchment has on the enterprise, as well as on departing and surviving employees. Various aspects such as the causes, effects, procedures and alternatives to retrenchment, will be addressed. RESEARCH OBJECTIVE The aim with this research is to gain an understanding, view different perspectives on the causes, the procedures, the effects and alternatives of and to retrenchment by studying available data. Employers should follow a more humanitarian approach to retrenchments which will prevent resistance to change and contribute to a positive employer-employee relationship in times of retrenchment. The study will focus on the alternatives that personnel practitioners could utilize before, during and after the retrenchment process. The primary aims of this research are to examine various studies based on research done on retrenchment so as to - • determine the causes, effects, influences and procedures of retrenchments in respect of the enterprise; and • identify alternative methods to retrenchment that may serve as guidelines to human resource practitioners to prevent conflict within an enterprise. The secondary aims of the research are the following: • The study of the effects of retrenchments on the employees in the enterprise; that is, the survivors and retrenched employees so as to provide for alternative remedies in this regard; and • to provide a clear framework of understanding of the rationale behind retrenchments, that is, the causes and effects of retrenchment on the individual. RESEARCH METHOD Due to the sensitivity of enterprises in respect of the subject, it was decided to undertake a literature study by researching books, periodicals, published research reports and contemporary publications on the subject. Law journals will also by used, due to the nature of the subject. Difficulty in finding appropriate data on the subject has been mentioned by previous research papers and can be confirmed in this paper. FINDINGS A summary of the findings may be outlined as follows. • An enterprise will downsize, irrespective of the profitability it enjoys; re-engineering is developed for fewer management/supervisory levels; top management will demand that only value-added activities are added to managerial positions; the key-staff of the future will be the process owners (that is those who supervise the process of satisfying a customer requirement); and the acquisition of skills through training has reached priority proportions. These are the facts of life in a revamped workplace (Dubrin, 1996:25). • Research done by the ILO, indicates South Africa as having a flexible labour market. This may be so, but given the transformation enterprises have to undergo in a competitive market system, maximum flexibility has to be maintained. The lack of proper training and investment in training, has a definite bearing on the flexibility of the labour force. Research by the Department of Labour is currently being conducted so as to ensure flexibility in the labour sector and will facilitate what has already been mentioned. • The causes of retrenchment are as complex as the enterprise itself. The causes of retrenchment cannot be attached to any of the three institutional parties to the labour relationship; however, some fundamental rules could be made so as to ensure peaceful coexistence. • The new Labour Relations Act (Act 66 of 1995) will certainly contribute to the speedy resolution of disputes. Although this has not been proved, all indications are that this will be the case. • South African enterprises are the poorest investors in training. • Various ways exist as to how enterprises undergo transformation, yet very few are explored by management. Systems such as "life-time employment" were developed in Japan. South African enterprises need to innovate their own type of "life-time employment" which will find acceptance by all parties. • Successful restructuring or re-engineering will differ from enterprise to enterprise. Research needs to be conducted so as to find the most successful guidelines in cases of restructuring and re-engineering as alternatives to retrenchment. • Studies conducted on the morale and performance of staff, are good indicators of the success of models applied as alternatives to retrenchments. RECOMMENDATIONS The following are recommended. • Ensuring flexible job descriptions. • Increasing training in the following disciplines: • transformation management; • multi-skilling; • information technology skills; • team work; • mixture of specialised/generalists; and • flexibility. • Structuring a flexible organisational hierarchy. • Creating a culture of risk-taking and innovation. • Negotiating a new service contract with employees. • Instituting a collective agreement towards handling of retrenchment situations, to as effectively as possible prevent conflict and disputes. CONCLUSION Retrenchment in the South African context causes not only psychological stress to all employees within the enterprise, but also contributes to the already massive unemployed labour force. Alternative remedies to the operational requirement of an enterprise to retrenchment should be developed and researched by all the parties to the labour relationship, and preferably jointly. This study proposes several recommendations that should be used as a departure point for employers as well as organised labour in order to address and seek solutions to the causes, effects and results of retrenchments. With the entry of South Africa into the international arena, it will become a member of the ILO and should pursue not only the legal, but social international accepted principles and norms of retrenchment.
- Humanities