Violence is not a bargaining chip

2012-09-29 10:16

From its start on Tuesday, the latest strike by truck drivers was characterised by violence.

Trucks driven by those who chose not to strike were torched and stoned indiscriminately, and drivers were assaulted.

The strike was declared because transport union Satawu demanded a 12% pay hike while employers offered 8%.

Not too long ago, the country saw mine workers and police engaged in battles that became fatal as strikes got out of hand.

Violence is increasingly becoming a feature of strikes in South Africa.

Workers view it as a quick way to get what they want. Even communities now regard it as a way to draw attention to their problems.

In its 2012 Workers’ Survey, labour federation Cosatu found half its members believed violence was needed during a strike to achieve the desired result.

Cosatu recognises this as a problem, but it is often slow to take responsibility for violent strikes and to discipline its members who are involved.

If the labour federation is serious about getting public sympathy for strikes and keeping investor confidence in our country strong, it needs to talk and act tough.

Already the wage settlement at Lonmin’s Marikana mine has set a dangerous precedent that playing fast and loose with the rules – using violence and negotiating outside recognised structures – can achieve a satisfactory result.

But we cannot afford another Marikana.

Violence is not a bargaining chip

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