We Need to Find a Common Purpose

By Lucio Trentini, CEO of SEIFSA

I am well aware that trust is exceptionally hard to earn and easy to break. But we’re not going to get out of this mess by tinkering at the edges, making small adjustments and compromises here and there and hoping things will get better.

At the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, the apex industry body, where business and labour meet, a new way of engaging with one another is desperately needed. If we all stay in our lanes, defend our corners and remain fixed in a win/ lose paradigm we will simply not find a common purpose about where to go, together.

The Bargaining Council, created almost eighty years ago, was established for a common purpose, painstakingly crafted by business and labour leaders of the day, determined we’d all have a better future. As our country contemplates coalition government at all levels, one is reminded of how feuding employer organisations on the bargaining council tried working together. In truth, these experiences were neither enduring nor effective and anything but successful. Representatives, elected by their respective constituencies, to represent the best interest of the industry, have, if truth, failed dismally in distinguishing between party and purpose.

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Substantial shift 

Inevitably, where party overrules purpose, irreconcilable differences, indecision and destruction is what follows. It serves little purpose in allocating blame; we are all complicit in varying degrees and we all stand accused of not just having failed our respective constituencies but more importantly the industry.

For the narrative to shift and the paradigm to change, we have little choice but to gather again. With the gazettal of a new set of administration and dispute resolution levies, the Council has been given a new lease of life, a second chance to repurpose its core function. However, even with all the will in the world, the Council cannot do this on its own and hence the question, what can we, as elected representatives, do to shift the narrative away from win/ lose to win/win?

The need for growth is beyond urgent. We require a substantial shift from the failed modus operandi of the last 12 years. What is needed is an end to the self-inflicted damage that party posturing and the pursuit of narrow agendas have caused.

As parties to the bargaining council, we haven’t had a good track record in the past 12 years. We have all to varying degrees been guilty of prioritising one’s own selfish needs and agendas above what could be in the best interest of the sector as a whole.

The situation is beyond urgent. We need a plan of action. If we, as elected representatives on the Council, cannot chart a clear course ahead in tackling the obstacles in the industry to job security and growth, what is the point of holding onto a bargaining council?

What we need, now more than ever before, is an understanding of the difference between compromise and consensus. There is little doubt we need more, much more of the latter. As I’ve alluded, there is more uniting the different parties on each side and across of the table than dividing us.

Afterall, we are all in this together.


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