Labour unrest – economic consequences of strikes


Jacki Condon | Managing Director | Apache Security Services | mail me |

After conducting intensive research into the topic of strikes and labour unrest, the Mandela Initiative came to several conclusions. One of these was that the right to strike is made up of a delicate balance between the power of firms and the rights of employees, and is considered a sign of a healthy democracy.

The Initiative confirmed that, whilst there are potential benefits from strikes (e.g. better work morale, lower absenteeism, or improved labour productivity), strike action also brings about numerous direct and indirect economic costs that can be high, depending on duration, number of workers involved and divisions affected.

Key causes of labour unrest

According to labour expert Suleyman Alley, there are seven key causes of labour unrest:

  • Health hazards in the workplace
  • Excessive working hours
  • Low wages
  • Demand for leave with pay
  • Discrimination
  • Inadequate working tools
  • Aggressive behaviour of managers towards employees

While several activities can be taken in an effort to prevent strikes from occurring or escalating, in the South African context, the tendency towards violent outbursts seems to outweigh reasonable action.

Strikes and labour unrest have marked negative impacts on the employees themselves, the employers and their stakeholders, the government, consumers, and the economy.

The negative effects on international trade include the hindrance of economic development, creating great economic uncertainty – especially as the global media continues to share details, images and videos of violence, damage to property and ferocious clashes between strikers and security.

Less productivity

Strike action results in less productivity, which in turn means less profits.

The employer is likely to lose money due to delayed service to clients or to lost production time. The employees will lose their pay due to the no work, no pay principle. If the strikers are dismissed they will lose their livelihoods altogether. – Ivan Israelstam, Labour Law Management Consulting

This year alone, Eskom, Prasa, various manufacturing plants, Sasol and the Post Office have faced crippling strikes – to name but a few.

There are more immediate consequences to consider than loss of income. As the socio-economic issues continue to affect South Africans across the board, tensions are constantly rising.

Businesses must protect themselves, their assets, business property, and their non-striking employees from violence and intimidation.

In conclusion

This requires the deft hand of well-trained and highly qualified close protection operatives. These operatives provide not only protection, but video evidence as well, ensuring those responsible for damage can be held to account.

The key is to create a strategic partnership with a reliable security provider. Plans must be put into place to protect businesses against vandalism, physical assault, property invasion and intimidation during labour unrest.




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