Industrial conflict management in a developing country
(Trade union recognition for the Swaziland Sugar Manufacturing and Refining Industry 1982 - 1992 from a human resources management perspective). This study has attempted to consider the complexities of labour relations and industrial conflict within a developing African country. A major case study was followed. The research covers the ten year period 1982 - 1992 and follows the interaction and conflict between management Representative of employers and trade union leaders in Swaziland's major strategic industry. The specific conflict issue was that of recognition by the employers of a trade union, as the sole collective bargaining agent for workers within the sugar manufacturing and refining industry. Both parties were constrained within the parameters of legislation more applicable to an industrialised nation than to a third world state. Interaction between participants in an industrial work place occurs within the ambience of the wider society but values, norms and ideologies are reflected individually and in the various sub-systems of that society. A prevailing ideology however pervades the total socio-economic and political system ordered through a framework of rules and regulations determined and approved by the governing elite. In one developing country, Swaziland, the authoritative framework for the industrial relations sub-system during the years 1982 - 1992, was based upon the Democratic Socialist ideology of Western industrially developed states, as catalogued and promoted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Organised labour's values and norms were identical to I. L. O. norms but the rank and file of the worker collectives in Swaziland rarely understood the concepts involved. Employers and managers marginally identified with the concepts but did not fully support their operationalisation. The hypothesis is that it was the impact of the respective values and norms of the employers and their representatives and union leaders which determined the processing of the conflict. The values and norms of industrialised society encapsulated in industrial relations concepts and the notion of collective bargaining embodied in Swaziland's labour legislation contributed little to the resolution of conflict over union recognition. Collective bargaining with its inherent compromise approach provided a model for conflict management and a forum for the exercise of attitudes and actions arising from individual and group values and norms; it did not provide guidelines for conflict resolution. Overt conflict was avoided but the underlying differences and the basic conflict itself were reinforced and prolonged for ten years. The study concludes with the suggestion that a locally developed conflict resolution strategy providing a structure for a consensus approach might have resulted in a long term collaborative environment for industrial relations. Such an environment could lead to economic stability and capital investment of benefit to employers and employees and of vital concern to a developing society.