News24

Who do strikers really hurt?

2010-07-05 08:04

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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Comments
  • Johan - 2010-07-05 08:32

    I think they must hold unions accounteble for all damages caused by their members.

  • Lorenzo - 2010-07-05 08:54

    I agree with you... but its never going to happen..!

  • abri - 2010-07-05 09:13

    That's right, we should all just shut up and let capitalism's race to the bottom force our wages and lives into the gutter further and further. What's the point of working at your UK car manufacturing plant for a pittance? Oh yes, I have to do so or starve to death. I propose the alternative...let the unions take over their workplaces and let the value that the workers produce (and after all, all value is produced by workers) be shared democratically among them. Then you don't have the pesky problems of jobs disappearing to wherever wages can be forced lower.

  • Deftones(Diamond Eyes) - 2010-07-05 09:19

    I say lets burn South-Africa to the ground...

  • alan - 2010-07-05 09:19

    It would be very interesting to see public figures of how much money the trade union bosses make off their members, while at the the same time often driving up labour costs so high that businesses become unsustainable. Does anyone out there have any idea how much trade union bosses make? As a thumbsuck, if there are 500 000 Cosatu members each paying R25 per month in union dues, that would bring in R12.5 million every single month. So making unreasonable demands would seem to be very good business for the 'Communist' (and supposedly anti-capitalist) unions. Does anyone know actual figures?

  • DeeDee - 2010-07-05 10:24

    The trade unions bosses should not continue to be paid as long as a strike is on. They should suffer the same fate as the strikers - then we'll see how quickly the demands become more reasonable.
    Has anybody ever calculated how much the strikers lose and how long it will take for them to recover their losses? If they did, they would definitely not strike for more than a day or two at most!

  • Mzu - 2010-07-05 10:30

    So who are the real hooligans, the executives running these companies or unions?

  • Shrek - 2010-07-05 10:37

    You are correct, the workers are the ones that suffer the most. Most of these companies, like Eskom, will make up for the 1 or 2% by retrenching workers, giving workers lower performance reviews, not replacing employees that resign/retire, etc. In 95/96 there was a major strike in the motor industry. The Unions went on strke for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks the motor industry gave into the unions demands, which was an additional 1%. The loss in wages was far more than the additional 1% they were fighting for.

  • nuclear - 2010-07-05 10:40

    Ideally, if a person is working in a full-time position, that person should be able to feed & house & take care of themselves & their families. By not being able to do so, it is this factor that leads to the notion of easy money gained from criminal activity. While I agree that union action need be tempered by logic, there is also a need for corporations to temper the shareholder dividend payouts with social responsibilities. The trade unions are needed in this country.

  • Joe @ Chris - 2010-07-05 10:53

    It is accurate to state that unions are sometimes counter productive but your the same can be said about market forces. The bottom line is that a labourer who struggles to stay liquid with a monthly salary could not give a hoot about market forces. He or she needs that increase, and badly. The continued artificial seperation of labour and capital, as Marx had pointed out, is the undelying cause of the problem. Centralising owenrship with the state is, however, not the answer. The only solution is for people to own the companies they work for and to share in the profit. That and fewer people. Within these two factors lie the two factors that play off against each other: accountability and wealth. No matter which way you spin it, every issue social ill we have can be tied up in those two and for as long as our social and economic institutions exists to underine accountability and horde wealth in the hands of a few we will have problems. Even market forces are subject to those two.

  • ESKOM WORKER - 2010-07-05 11:07

    Years service:30
    Post grading: C upper/ T12
    Salary: R22000 p/m
    housing subsidy: R1 079 Depends on outstanding bond value. will decrease as bond get paid off
    Rent(ESKOM house)R5 100 paid back to ESKOM
    No car subsidy; no overtime allowed; no other allowances
    Taking home R9 500
    Responsible for correct electronic repairs for a 6500 Megawatt power station. one mistake, the equivalent of 650 000 households without power.
    Performance bonus base 10%
    Top management bonus base 25%
    Any further comments?

  • Ghanga - 2010-07-05 11:08

    We all agree that unreasonable demands by unions will ultimately wreck our economy. Union leaders of violent strikes should be arrested and prosecuted. Goverment should introduce new legislation regarding unions.

  • abri - 2010-07-05 11:10

    @ Joe....Amen brother

  • abri - 2010-07-05 11:16

    @Eskom worker....Do you have comparable data for someone in a similar position who is not unionized? Also, what is the situation for people who have only worked for Eskom for 2 years? I assume once you've worked 30 years, you are not a general worker anymore...right?

  • Foom - 2010-07-05 11:31

    The textile industry is a terrible example of your beloved Free Market, given the successful efforts of the Chinese Government to artificially lower the cost of their textiles on the world market.

    So they wouldn't have been striking to pay more to clothe themselves, but to insist on the self-same Free Market you claim to idolize.

  • Mnanga - 2010-07-05 11:38

    These strikers will still strike when the chinese take over this country.

  • @ Mnanga - 2010-07-05 12:12

    Unfortunately the Chinese don't understand the meaning of the word strike......they don't even have a chinese word for it.
    @ Mzu - the executives are just as bad. How can they award themselves massive increases and expect employees to get 9%. Again its government that allows these executives to get away with these massive increases.

  • Athena @ @Mnanga - 2010-07-05 12:46

    They must count their blessings. I have received a 3% increase in the span of 4 years. Every year its an excuse one after the other, and when you approach the unions, they only cater for the other colour.

  • tim - 2010-07-05 12:50

    Strikers really hurt the goalkeeper. Especially if they get one in the net. :)

  • Anarchist - 2010-07-05 12:57

    People should have to study 'human nature' as a subject at school. It should also be understood that competitiveness has little to do with the competition commission. I believe one should have the right to resign - but I am less sure about the right to strike. That fact that mobs elsewhere have the right to destroy business doesn't make it right.

  • Kevin - 2010-07-05 13:03

    Years service:19
    Post grading:Security officer
    Salary: R9484,00 p/m
    housing subsidy: R500,00
    Taking home R7414.60
    Any further comments?

  • Jenns - 2010-07-05 13:11

    we would all like to have enough money (although let's face it - how much is enough?), but sometimes we just need to be grateful to have a job. i agree with strikes if they are aimed at achieving a living wage, but not those based on greed and unfortunately, the latter has been behind most of our recent strikes

  • Ivan The Terrible - 2010-07-05 13:14

    South Africans are lazy bums and that is mainly why they strike and when foreigners tkae their jobs they want to beat them up and kill them.The mentality of the people in this country is disgusting.Please change your mindset before striking to all those that are crippling this beautiful country

  • Athena @Ivan the Terrible - 2010-07-05 13:31

    Totally agree with you my friend. They are like children, they throw tantrums (strikes) when they don't get what they want. They are so used to handouts. I wish I could get a housing allowance, but I had to work for my house.

  • Ben - 2010-07-05 13:41

    @Athena,you are a gorilla and should only be paid in bananas

  • Lefty - 2010-07-05 13:47

    Everybody has a right to strike , the problem in SA is they become violent and property is damaged . Eskom state owned and funded by the TAXPAYER which is only 5,2 mil in SA . Will simply raise their fees to us and pay the fat cat Execs huge bonusses they do not deserve . Well known wall and gate comp in SA , offer 6.5 % workers 120 striked as they became unionised . union demanded 13% , they lost 80% of their order book due to the strike . Owner simply closed the business and retrenched all 120 staff ? We are just coming out of a Global recession , the problem is increases are not given across the board . Its when your fat cat execs are paid millions in bonusses , adding a 25% increase and labour has to settle for 8% ??? Its smells of corruption , and jobs given to chronies by the ANC , and they are not qualified to do the job !!!

  • Lorenzo @ ESKOM WORKER - 2010-07-05 14:13

    After 30 years of working at the same company you only earn 22k a month??
    I know 24 year olds that earn D Lower which is more than 22k, because they have Honours. With no working experience..

    Clearly Studying after school is important.

  • ESKOM WORKER - 2010-07-05 14:20

    @ABRI
    SASOL T12 R28000-33000 p.m. LAughed at ESKOM pay offer when applied for work
    SNR technician T12 18 000-22000 with 2 years
    engineer in training 2months service.NOT in bargaining group R35 000, car and housing subsidy of R5000 each

  • Eye of Truth @Ben@Athena - 2010-07-05 14:32

    Excuse me Ben, maybe you not worth the air you breathe?

  • ESKOM WORKER - 2010-07-05 14:46

    ESKOM WORKER@LORENZO
    T3 + DC & AC Metrology + SIEMENS system support+_Instrumentation trade test
    Enough qualifications?????????

  • @ESKOM WORKER - 2010-07-05 15:06

    So why the hell don't you go and work at Sasol instead of demanding my hard earned tax money? You are only worth what people will pay you. It may be great looking at companies that pay more than your company does, but if you cannot get a job there, TOUGH TITTY. You can't take the highest paid workers in an industry and demand that all workers get paid the same as them - or would you really prefer to live in a communist system (which is essentially what that would be)

  • GinaS - 2010-07-05 16:59

    Worker should not be forced to join a union, they themselves could come to some agreement with their bosses regarding wages, but unfortunately Big Business like ESCOM>TELKOM>CITY COUNCIL have all government stamping and the wages laid down by government is far to low, the unions should see that the wage and salary structure be changed so that these workers start with a decent wage/ salary bring back cost of living allowance, travel subsidy, these will all help.

  • Not4Me - 2010-07-05 21:28

    I am blown away at the ignorance level of some posters, like joe and abri et al. Marx policies have long proven a load of crock. What did he achieve in his life except to end in poverty supported by the Engels who got their money where? They owned a business in Manchester. The hypocrisy....

    Do you honestly think the "workers", by whom I assume you mean labourers, contribute the major driving value in a business. They are truely only glorified robots doing (sometimes) what they are told. In most instances almost anyone can be trained, like monkey see monkey do, to work a ratchet, or a hammer, etc. (Sorry, but call a spade...) True value comes from the ingenuity and ability of those who conceive of new ideas, methods, concepts, drive the business mechanism forward through their thorough understanding of market forces, customer needs and technology, and mostly of the competition they face. Even very uneducated persons have achieved this in their life so if you missed out on education, what are you doing about it? oh yes, of course, you are striking!!

    Most businesses in the private sector in this country are in dire straits, with many force into liquidation already. Who takes the knock when that happens. Yes the worker loses his job, but he does not lose the money he invested which in many instances took many years to save and had to be put up at risk to start the business. That tells you those are the guys with the B@lls to put their money where their mouth is.

    It is all well to want someone else to be altruistic and give up his savings that are invested in a business so that the workers can own the means of production, but if they want it so badly and they think it is that easy, just simply start your own business and give it away to the other workers. I don't see any of the ANC gov, or JMalema giving away his earning to the workers for the good of the people.

    At heart, I would love to be a communist too. The reality is that free market has proven to be the best mechanism for production and employment yet. It is when it is distorted by things like Government ownership, jobs for pals with NO accountability that things go horribly wrong - Africa style.

    About the Chinese. They have been allowed for too long to use uncompetitive mechanisms to promote their products. The Chinese government is the worlds biggest monopolising company.

    Textile and shoe industry are already dead in South Africa. Engineering will follow soon, owing to MEIBC burden. Businesses and more specifically business owners need to be valued and cherished as it is indeed they that actually generate wealth. Wealth is required before it can be distributed. DONT KILL THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGGS. No matter how much you like gooseflesh :)

    I hope this is published but fear it is too long....

  • hmm - 2010-07-05 23:20

    If you are unsatisfied with your salary, find alternative employment. If you can't, maybe your skills are not as valuable as you think.

  • Gert - 2010-07-06 00:22

    Would love to know how mush Chris Moerdyk get a month. I am sure he is not struggling to feed his family. Just give everyone a fare wage

  • Do the maths @ESKOM WORKER - 2010-07-06 07:56

    Did you always get a F in school?

    Here's a solution:
    Tact + learning + attending school + listening to superiors = a good employee!

  • philosoraptor - 2010-07-06 10:17

    Does government exist because of tax or does tax exist because of government.

  • @eskom worker - 2010-07-06 10:19

    "Responsible for correct electronic repairs for a 6500 Megawatt power station. one mistake, the equivalent of 650 000 households without power" - here's the problem we constantly have power outages so obviously you are not worth the money

  • @philosoraptor - 2010-07-06 10:37

    If you want to live without roads, streetlights, harbours, dams, courts and other things that tax pays for, that's your business. Tax exists because we demand that government provides stuff for us. What I object to is government employees wasting tax money or demanding a higher wage increase, from taxes that I pay, than I am getting.

  • Tigra @abri - 2010-07-06 12:48

    "let the value that the workers produce (and after all, all value is produced by workers) be shared democratically among them" - HAHAHA ROTFLOL! You might want to have a look at the definition of communism. And communism is definitely NOT democratic...

  • Trade Unions should pay workers whilst on strike - 2010-07-06 14:14

    Yeah right!

  • martinG - 2010-07-07 06:24

    "aint no such thing as revolution, its got another, name its called evolution..go slow"-shawn phillips ... this has all come to pass ... and one day we'll be dealing with another set of challenges.. go slow

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