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Cosatu calls for strike review

Sep 16 2012 15:20 Sapa

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Johannesburg - Cosatu wants to review its strike processes to ensure workers are happy with the outcomes, and that associated violence and intimidation are reduced.

"It is worrying... that only half of the Cosatu members surveyed in the 2012 Workers' Survey were satisfied with the outcome of the strikes in their workplace," the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said.

"Public sector Cosatu members were more satisfied than their private sector counterparts," according to Cosatu's organisational report prepared for discussion at its national congress.

The four-day congress in Midrand starts on Monday.

Cosatu's survey found that between 10 and 15 percent of respondents reported that there had been violence or intimidation by management or the police during strikes.

This was mostly in the form of threats to strikers, or the firing of rubber bullets or teargas.

"A similar number said there had been violence or intimidation by strike supporters, mostly threats to scabs," Cosatu said.

Although Cosatu did not have comprehensive data on strikes, it said the period from August 2010 to March 2012 had not seen the levels of violence experienced during the 2006 security workers' strike, when over 50 people were killed.

This did not include the ongoing strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana in the North West, in which 45 people have been killed in strike-related incidents.

"There is, however, overall evidence that violence in strikes is increasing," Cosatu said.

The SA Special Risks Insurance Association 2011 annual report found that strike-related claims had increased significantly since 2006 and now accounted for over 70 percent of its claims.

Cosatu's survey found that half the respondents saw violence by workers "as necessary to achieve an acceptable result".

Cosatu was concerned that only 45 percent of respondents said their union had met regularly with workers to get mandates during negotiations. Ten percent said meetings were never held to get mandates.

Cosatu has recommended a review of strike processes, which would include tightening picket rules and a campaign to ensure that employers and police complied with the law.

It wanted to campaign to change the law allowing employers to hire scab labour during strikes.

"Currently, in all strikes, the balance of power is heavily tipped in favour of the bosses, by virtue of the fact that they continue to have the unfettered right to draw from our vast army of unemployed to replace strikers....

"So the first change required is that we need restrictions on the right of the bosses to employ scabs."

Cosatu also wanted a reform of police tactics during strikes.

"The brute force that we have seen used by police in so many strikes can no longer be tolerated."

Cosatu called for urgent attention to be given to the fact that a lack of funds to support striking workers was fuelling violence during strikes.

"Despite previous congress resolutions on the establishment of strike funds, no affiliate has succeeded in establishing a comprehensive national fund."

Cosatu was also concerned about a recent Constitutional Court judgment against the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union which found trade unions liable for damage to property or people during strikes.

"It is recommended that Cosatu should campaign for changes in the law to make it explicitly clear that unions should not automatically be held liable in the event [of] damage to property during strikes."

Cosatu's survey found that 85 percent of strikes were wage-related, six percent were retrenchment-related, and five percent had to do with unfair discipline or dismissal.

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cosatu  |  strike  |  mining unrest
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