In the past few months, South Africans have been inundated with news and media reports of “wildcat” strikes across the country.
The Constitution of South Africa and the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 states that all employees have the right to strike. The law distinguishes between protected and unprotected strikes. For a strike to be deemed as protected, strikers must prove the dispute has been referred to the CCMA or bargaining council to be resolved, the dispute remains unresolved after being referred to the CCMA or bargaining council and the employer has been given at least 48 hours notice of the intention to strike.
Employers must be very careful not to dismiss protected strikers. If protected strikers are dismissed, the employer may be liable to pay each dismissed employee up to 24 months compensation or reinstatement with full back pay to the date of dismissal.
Employers can manage protected strikes by following these guidelines:
Ensure strikers understand why you cannot meet their demands. If possible, find the middle ground on their demands;
Bring in replacement labour, as well as additional security for potential attacks from strikers;
Vacate non strikers if they are at risk and pay attention to protecting non strikers;
Do not discipline or dismiss employees for participating in a protected strike;
Do not aggravate strikers. This may lead to violence or hostility;
Do not pay employees while they are on strike.