Since the travesty that befell the country in 2012 with the Marikana incident, South Africa has been described as an extremely strike-prone country with many attendant losses. For example, insurer Sasria recorded claims of nearly R900 million most of which were as a result of the violent #FeesMustFall protests.
What is government doing about strike violence?
The National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) has introduced two documents to address the issue of strike violence:
- The Accord on Collective Bargaining and Industrial Action, and
- The Draft Code of Good Practice: Collective Bargaining, Industrial Action and Picketing.
The parties to the Accord are the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Bargaining Councils, NEDLAC as well as employers’ organisations and trade unions. These parties have undertaken to ensure that – should violence, intimidation or the threat of harm occur in strikes – they will do everything in their power to ensure that the strike is solved as promptly as possible.
The Accord also looks at the role of the South African Police Services (SAPS) during industrial action. It expressly states that during strike action, SAPS must have a sufficient presence visible to monitor the activities. Private security companies near the strike action are not to be armed.
The Code details the practical application of the Accord. It will provide practical guidance on collective bargaining and dispute resolution among others. What is the legal effect of these? Anyone who is interpreting the Labour Relations Act (LRA) must take the Code into account as well. It has been argued that the Code has been drafted very vaguely – intentionally. Thus, it may be interpreted in a number of ways if it does not conflict with the LRA.
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