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For now, SA has among the most cosseted workers in the world – for the increasingly few, that is, who can obtain paid, regular remuneration.
Because it is exceedingly difficult to get rid of staff, private sector employers look to mechanisation or outsourcing. That leaves the public sector, where job growth, salaries and benefits have grown steadily since 1994.
Because of demographic quotas, getting a public service job has little to do with merit and much to do with ticking the boxes for race and gender. That’s just the first hurdle.
Nepotism is rife and it is virtually impossible to get anything above an entry-level position if one is not a member of the ANC or its alliance partners.
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For example, Sadtu was found by a ministerial task team to exercise “de facto control” over education departments and blatantly selling posts. Disputed job appointments were often being settled by murder.
Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the unions “appear to control government”. Their “dominant influence” was made possible by the “feeble and dilatory condition” of existing processes and the inexorable creeping of nepotism”. That report was released in 2016.
Five years later, not only have illegal union activities not been curbed, they have spread.
Union mafias demand to be cut into any new construction, property developments or industrial builds. Without a cut going to the ringleaders, accompanied by the employment of their approved workers and suppliers, it’s a war zone with armed pickets and arson. Despite violence and disorder, the police rarely intervene.
There is an astonishing level of societal indulgence of union militancy. It’s taken almost three decades for a Labour Appeal Court ruling to formalise, in a ruling this week, the bloody obvious: that striking employees armed with weapons — in this case, sticks, clubs, sjamboks, and PVC rods — can be fired for intimidating other staff and the public.
Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane said any “reasonable employee” would know that bringing a dangerous weapon to work would not be tolerated. Especially, said the judge, since there was a clear, signposted workplace rule “which prohibits such conduct … and expressly warns that the consequence … is dismissal”.
What is remarkable is the apparent weight that is accorded the company’s signpost that forbade their workers from violence and intimidation. It’s like having to have a sign at one’s home saying: “No robberies or killings of the employers by their domestic staff will be tolerated, on pain of dismissal”.
Nevertheless, the metalworkers union, Numsa, says it will take the matter to the Constitutional Court. Encouragingly, Cape Town has announced that it is moving ahead with a R1.4 million civil claim against the Gatvol Capetonian group and the Economic Freedom Fighters for public infrastructure damaged during protests in 2019.
There is a precedent.
The Constitutional Court previously upheld a judgment that found the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) liable for R1.5 million damages caused during a march. The Labour Appeal judgment this week relates to an incident in July 2014. The 2012 ConCourt judgment followed an event six years earlier.
These are criminal actions. They should have brought the intervention of the police against the unions, not for the wronged parties to have to scrabble for justice.