Conflict management : a union's approach at the Durban University of Technology.
Sutherland, Maya Lakhranie.
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Conflict is inevitable in a rapidly changing society. The education sector represents a microcosm of this society and is thus as susceptible to conflict as any other sector. The purpose of this study is to explore how and by what means the National Union of Tertiary Employees of South Africa (NUTESA) manages conflict at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). This was explored by identifying some of the major sources, aggravators/moderators and conflict behaviour that exists at DUT as well as the process that NUTESA uses in addressing and resolving conflict. The study also identifies the conflict management styles and strategies that NUTESA uses in resolving union and management conflict. This study uses a qualitative approach and semi-structured interviews to collect the data. Ten committee members of the National Union of Tertiary Employees of South Africa at DUT are interviewed. Data is analysed using descriptive and interpretive approaches. Analyses of the data indicates that NUTESA believes that conflict should be managed constructively and effectively to prevent conflict from escalating and leading to disputes. NUTESA has been pro-active and innovative in many ways at DUT which has promoted good relationships, especially with management, and has fostered open communication, understanding, trust and sensitivity. The process that NUTESA uses in managing conflict is largely dictated by the grievance procedure document specified by DUT. This policy document affords the unions, employee and management the opportunity to communicate and discuss work related issues in a fair and objective manner. Beyond this, NUTESA is extremely committed and protective of its members in many ways, as this study shows. NUTESA are open to communication and believe that a participatory approach benefits all parties within DUT i.e. both management and its members. Being part of the collective bargaining and the labour consultative forums has certainly been a move in the right direction as these forums provide NUTESA with a perfect platform for open and honest discussion with management especially where the interests and the rights of employees are at stake.