Theto Mahlakoana analyses the Department of Labour’s recently released 2017 Industrial Action report and concludes that the report shows once more that there are no winners when workers head for the picket line, but the biggest loser is labour.

In 2017 workers lost R251m in wages, compared with R161m in 2016, a 56% increase. Industrial action also has costly consequences for the economy and affected businesses. A total of 960,889 man days, the most time yet, was lost to strike action in 2017. Among the workers who take to the streets are the country’s majority working poor, who earn less than R3,500 a month and have few assets or savings. Some take more than seven years to recover from the impact financially. Even when unions score victories for workers, the amount of money lost during strikes tends to hollow out such wins. The writer takes the view that, if unions honestly outlined the potential costs and the possible benefits of strike action, there would surely be less aggressive rhetoric. The struggle to recover lost wages due to the no-work, no-pay rule means most long strikes defeat the object — so the onus is on the unions to find other ways to exert pressure on employers. The same responsibility confronts employers, who can also set their businesses back years by failing to do everything possible to avoid strikes. The writer concludes that there has to be a better, less expensive way for employers and employees to resolve disputes without workers resorting to strike action and a paradigm shift by employers and unions over disputes is needed.

Read this well-argued and timely opinion piece at BL Premium (paywall access)