LABOUR: Unions Must Also Be Held Liable
Recent Western Cape Business News
THE present plans to amend the Labour Relations Act should include a provision to create collective liability for unions so that employers and other victims of strike related violence can seek compensation for injury and damage to property,” says the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s an unfortunate fact that major strikes in South Africa seem to be accompanied by violence, intimidation and the destruction of property,” said Mr Michael Bagraim, President of the Chamber. “It has become a predictable feature of strike action and the organisers must bear responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of the protests they organise.”
He said there had been cases where the courts had found that the unions did have liability but they had been few and far between.
Employers had many responsibilities in terms of our labour legislation but the picture was not balanced and it was time that the unions’ responsibilities to ensure peaceful and non-violent strikes were clearly defined in law.
Mr Bagraim said labour legislation worked best when there was a good balance between the rights and powers of employers and their employees. When either side became too powerful the balance was lost with devastating consequences for labour relations and the economy.
“There is already evidence that the unions may have become too powerful. One example is the fact that the public service wage bill has doubled in the past five years while there is little indication of improved productivity. Other recent wage increases have been double and even treble the inflation rate.”
Violence and intimidation had been a feature of recent strikes and this put additional pressure on negotiators. Unions had denied responsibility, placing the blame on criminal infiltrators and opportunists, but the fact was that strike action and organised demonstrations created predictable opportunities for criminals. The organisers should bear the responsibility for weeding out the infiltrators and controlling the excesses of their own members.
He said the planned amendments to labour legislation would increase the burden and responsibilities of employers and it was essential to balance the picture by creating collective liability for the unions.
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