Chris Moerdyk

Why I stopped being a trade unionist

2013-05-27 09:08

Many years ago when I was a young newspaper reporter I was persuaded by my colleagues to join what was then called the South African Society of Journalists which became the SA Union of Journalists which was disbanded, if I remember correctly, about six years ago.

The idea was I would join a phalanx of underpaid hacks who would fight the iniquities of the filthy capitalist pig dogs who owned our newspapers. At the time, in all the spy movies about the Cold War, communist bloc tough guys used to call westerners filthy capitalist pig dogs.

(Bear with me here - I do get to the point and start sounding off about our present state of labour anarchy a bit later on.)

Anyway, back to me joining a trade union. Frankly, I found it all a little disconcerting because one of my life goals was to actually become a filthy capitalist pig dog but I suppose being young and impressionable you don't want to let your mates down so you join up with the hope that there will be free beer and snacks at meetings.

At my first meeting I was doubly disappointed. There was no beer nor was there any vestige of snacks.

But, my big disappointment was when the meeting was trying to decide what pay increase to put to management. What happened was that the unions went in high and management went in low and then after several rounds of negotiation some form of compromise was reached.

Waste of time

This all looked like a monumental waste of time and effort to me. Why not, I asked, just decide on the minimum increase we'd be happy with and tell management that if they didn't meet it we would go on strike.

I was severely reprimanded by our union representatives who told me in no uncertain terms that was completely out of order... "We have to play this game with management to reach a conclusion."

And so it goes on today. This "game" that costs the economy a fortune. I quit as a trade unionist and concentrated on becoming a filthy capitalist pig dog which I managed to achieve with moderate success.

Today it seems, this "game" has become a lot more dangerous because about half of trade union membership firmly believes that violence is an acceptable option to achieve a settlement. I don't know about you, but I reckon when violence is brought into the equation, "unionism" becomes "anarchy". Plain and simple.

The problem is this "game" is ruining the country. Even our finance minister, Pravin Gordhan warned of this last week. As did the governor of the Reserve Bank, Gill Marcus.

It seems to me that upmost in the minds of trades union leaders is their own relevance and career paths. They get paid salaries and are given time off to do their work while strikers mostly have to give up their income for the period of the strike.

Everything more expensive

With all the violence and illegal strikes right now, the value of the Rand has dropped as a direct result. There is also more money leaving this country than coming into it.

And it seems pretty certain that the extra money workers get from strikes doesn't make up what they lost during the strikes. Now, this dramatic devaluation of the Rand means that food and just about everything else will become more expensive. Especially petrol and diesel.

So, the more strikes there are the more strikers and workers in general will pay for food and other essentials.

Right now our labour laws are so draconian that a lot of small businesses are shutting down because no-one wants to employ anyone because of the immense hassle of administering staff in line with labour legislation. And also because it is virtually impossible to fire anyone.

On top of which,  in spite of all the trade unionists claiming that part of their job is to increase employment and save jobs, between them and our government the country is losing jobs hand over first instead of creating them.

Certainly,  government has this incredible knack of investing billions in creating jobs while on the other doing insanely stupid things that causes jobs to be lost.


I think it is about time that government started listening to their own finance minister and that unions started thinking about what is good for the country rather than what is just good for them.

The thing is, we can't carry on like this. Our work force has turned to anarchy in its search for unions they can trust and government just doesn't seem to care. They just keep piling up ludicrous legislation such as the appalling business registration bill - all of which just makes it more and difficult to do business in this country.

The ANC in particular, needs to make up its mind about whether are trying to be a free market democracy or a socialist state.

Right now it is trying to be both and that's like trying to drive through thick sand in a sports car.

It is beyond me that something so obviously stupid is allowed to carry on regardless.

And as for those idiots in government who claim that a devalued rand is good for exports, well, that's like being excited about only losing a rugby match by a few points instead of a whitewash.

Both government and the trade unions need to start realising that in a country with such high unemployment and a global economic downturn in full swing, it is insane to try and get so much more money for workers in spite of tough times. All that is going to do is ensure that a smaller number of workers are going to earn more while the majority will end up with no job at all.

War mongers

What they also need to realise is that if big companies cannot make a profit in this country, they will not only cut their work force but might just pull out altogether.

And it's no good idiot unions "declaring war" on them.

Filthy capitalist pig dogs have never given a toss about workers declaring war on them. They just go somewhere else and leave the war mongers stewing in their own pathetic juice.            

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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