Striking Public Sector – Solving the Problem

A few weeks ago in response to an article on strikes, one of the posts below the article asked whether I would write a follow up article on the steps currently taken by government to address the strike and what measures, in my opinion, should be taken. I need to preface my response by saying that this article just enumerates a few of the issues and a solution to the issue, it is by no means an exhaustive examination! I am not suggesting that we do away with striking. Striking is a legitimate avenue for expressing workers grievances but it should be remembered that striking should also be a last resort and should not be used lightly. However, as a country we lose many working days to strikes, in fact more than most other countries, and it is worth noting that the rest of the ‘strike-loving’ nations are first world so really not in a similar situation to South Africa at all. So how do we sort out the problem. Acknowledge Government’s Role – Good and Bad Starting with what the government does, and did during the recent strike season. I applaud the government on taking remedial action by getting the armed forces to step into the void created by striking nurses and policemen. This saved a number of lives in hospitals deserted by striking nurses, and showed a willingness to act and to provide the essential services we require of government, when faced with an emergency situation. The government has also made some mistakes, they gave in to the strikers’ demands at a time when those demands are unreasonable given the government and world financial situation. We should also consider that running up to the strikes there is a history of mismanagement and poor working conditions in the public services and to be fair our public sector workers do not earn especially well. Also consider that government had recently awarded an 8% raise to transport and electricity workers which may explain the public...

read more

Three strikes and you’re out…

South Africa’s national sport isn’t rugby, nor cricket, nor soccer. It’s striking and it’s getting ridiculous. While workers need a legitimate form of protest against unreasonable treatment, in the South African context, the reasoning behind the most recent strikes is suspect. Three problems with the strikes spring to mind. Firstly, as a country where approximately a third of the population is unemployed, striking workers are not exactly a boon to job creation, especially when the workers in question are employed in the privileged public sector and are demanding pay increases (8.6%) of roughly twice the inflation rate. This, on top of consistently high raises during the last few years and the fact that public sector salaries have formed an increasing percentage of the national budget, spells a recipe for trouble. COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) suggests that the strike was about prioritising the needs of the poor. That suggestion is ludicrous. It can be argued whether job creation is best achieved in the private or public sectors but when the government in question, led by the ruling ANC (African National Congress), has been voted in on a platform of policies geared towards poverty alleviation and job creation, one needs to ask if the money going towards the ridiculous raises could be put to better use. COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) suggests that the strike was about prioritising the needs of the poor. That suggestion is ludicrous. The second issue is one of competitiveness, South Africa likes to group itself with the quorum of developing nations known as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), our minister of foreign affair often refers to BRICSA (last two letters standing for South Africa), and hopes to attract foreign investment like the other BRIC members. However our labour is far too expensive to be considered on a par with China’s, for example, and our aggregate level of education (not helped by teachers’ strikes) doesn’t measure up either. How then do we propose to compete for...

read more