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Labour landscape has changed

COMMENT

Tony Healy

As a senior Commision for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration commissioner said to me recently, "many unions are seek- ing to emulate Marikana". In some respects, Marikana was a tragic con- tinuation of the trend of strike action being associated with violence and criminal striker behaviour.

It is also disconcerting to note that a trade union such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is being so widely shunned by long- standing union members.

Although blamemongering might not be an appropriate response to the developments at Marikana, the NUM needs to understand introspec- tively how and why their leadership has failed to the extent that long- standing union members are turning their backs on the NUM. There does appear to be some truth in a widely expounded belief that the NUM has lost touch with union members, and is similarly out of touch with grass- roots union member agenda item.

In this vein, it is worth noting, for example, Cosatu's campaign against e-tolling. This may be a laudable cause in many quarters, but the stark reality is that the vast majority of Cosatu's members do not own vehi- cles and are unlikely to be signifi- cantly impacted by e-tolling, because minibus taxis are exempted from e-tolling fees.

Perhaps one of the biggest rami- fications of Marikana, aside from the tragic deaths of so many, is the perception that the anarchy that was associated with the wildcat Marikana strike benefited the strik- ers. Our labour legislation never envisaged unprotected strikers, armed to the teeth, and threatening to murder managers.

Regardless of the legitimacy or oth- erwise of the worker's grievances, no civilized democracy can condone the behaviour of the rampant strikers at Marikana, and it is no surprise that more and more employers are say- ing enough is enough, and are firing participants in prolonged wildcat strikes.

Tony Healy & Associates is a labour law and labour relations firm that provides professional litigation, consulting and training services to South African businesses

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