DA resubmits private member’s bill on accountability at strikes

2014-10-15 00:00

THE Democratic Alliance is set to butt heads with Cosatu again after resubmitting a bill to Parliament in a bid to enforce accountability when violence breaks out during strike action.

The bill puts the onus on trade unions to take “reasonable steps” to prevent harm during strikes.

The DA noted that in the first two weeks of the strike in the metal and engineering sector, for example, 246 cases of intimidation, 50 violent incidents and 85 cases of vandalism were recorded.

The private member’s bill, titled the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, was submitted to the Speaker by shadow labour minister Ian Ollis yesterday.

It requires unions to educate workers beforehand about the legalities of strike action, provide marshals for crowd control and prevent infiltration from criminal elements.

It empowers courts to stop a strike and enforce arbitration if it has become “excessively violent” and to award damages if unions have failed to take “reasonable” steps to ensure the safety of the public.

“Nothing must compromise the protection and lawful exercise of workers’ constitutional rights,” said Ollis at a media briefing. “This must, however, also be balanced with acting in the best interests of all people.”

“If reasonable steps were taken, then there is no further obligation on the union … That is key. It is not to punish unions, but to stop violence.”

Ollis urged the ANC to support the bill, and to not succumb to pressure from its alliance partners.

ANC spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said it was premature to comment, but the party would allow the bill to go through its parliamentary processes and the portfolio committee.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the union would resist any move to undermine the constitutional rights of trade unions. “We have always condemned violence … There are already laws that cover such acts. There is no need to have anything [more] specific.”

The DA’s previous bill, first introduced in 2010, lapsed following a Constitutional Court ruling that reformed the process for the introduction of private member’s bills.

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