Who do strikers really hurt?
I suppose that one can understand Eskom staff wanting to strike when they see their bosses getting bonuses for basically stuffing things up, enjoying housing allowances and spending a fortune on World Cup tickets while the workers are offered what looks like a relative pittance by comparison.
On the other hand, sometimes the demands made by unions are ludicrous, amounting to outright blackmail and I can't help getting the feeling that nine times out of ten the people who end up getting hurt are the workers.
This Eskom dispute reminds me of the most enthusiastic toyi-toying protestor I have ever seen, marching through BMW's head office complex in Midrand about 15 years or so ago, carrying a beautifully scripted placard reading; "I DEMAND FOGALL...!"
He was protesting over the fact that he and many of his colleagues actually didn't want to strike or protest but were being forced to do so by their shop stewards.
I was also reminded of a full page ad in the Sunday Times placed by Edcon some years ago. It was striking back at Cosatu and Sactwu's threat of mass action if local retailers refused to sign a procurement pledge to source 75% of their products from South Africa.
I wondered just how many demonstrators would march with long teeth just like that inventive and clearly reluctant protestor at BMW, because if that mass action had succeeded, union members, not to mention every poor person in South Africa, would effectively be paying more to clothe themselves.
That bizarre strike mercifully didn't happen but if it had, it would be the first time in the history of the world that consumers would have been demanding higher prices.
That's what inevitably happens if free market forces are tampered with and knee-jerk regulations put in place to force retailers to source products from anywhere but countries offering the best value, quality and service.
Trade unionists in this country should also do themselves a favour and talk to all those people who used to work in the once thriving motor industry the UK and who are now out of jobs. They will find out that one of the root causes of the collapse and closure of car plants there was that union demands over the years had made the UK car manufacturing industry completely uncompetitive on world markets.
I believe that the right to strike is paramount. I genuinely believe that a lot of people are better off in this country because of this right.
But, I also believe that this right should be tempered with logic and not include the trashing of city streets, stone throwing and damaging property.
It still amazes me that this hooligan element still manages to get away with it so often. And the situation now, is almost one in which far too any people believe that the right to damage property and generally going on a wrecking spree, is entrenched in our constitution.
Workers need to be able to strike because the alternative of telling people who already have fogall that they will get fogall more in the long run if they protest too much will pretty much have fogall chance of succeeding.
That what revolutions are made of.
But, it is time the unions took responsibility for those of their members who are not strikers but plain and simple hooligans and criminals.
Successful countries are those in which there is a delicate balance between labour exploitation and labour violence. Unfortunately, South Africa is still far too full of both blatant exploitation and excessive violence.
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