DA: True extent of strike anarchy shown

2010-10-10 18:00

Johannesburg - Comments by the SA Communist Party and the Congress of SA Trade Unions on the tabling of a private members bill in Parliament reveal the "true extent of the unlawful behaviour of union members during strike action", the DA said on Sunday.

Last week the Democratic Alliance submitted a law proposal to Parliament to protect the public from violence and intimidation during strike action by unions.

The law proposed that unions take steps to prevent, repair or remedy injury to a person and loss of damage to property caused by strikes, that unions be made responsible for damage, loss or injury as a result of strike actions and that union responsibility is presumed where there is a loss, damage or injury during strike action.

On Friday SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the proposed bill would be "shot down" and was a sure route to destroy the trade union movement in South Africa.

DA MP Ian Ollis said in a statement "we believe it is right, on principle, to hold unions accountable in the way that other juristic entities organisations, companies, co-operatives, even football clubs are commonly held legally liable for the unlawful actions of persons that fall under their authority".


He said that the fact that a recent Western Cape High Court judgement provided precedent for this underscored the need for such provisions to be codified into the labour law.

"Our bill is a euphemism for accountability, for its purpose is to hold people who break the law to account and so one might fairly paraphrase the comments of Mr Vavi and Dr Nzimande as follows 'accountability will destroy and weaken the unions'. Enough said."

For the bill to be able to destroy or weaken a union, one of three conditions needed to be met, Ollis said.

Union members would need to breach the law so extensively and on a regular basis that the union would find it financially draining.

Secondly, the unions would need to believe that they had no hope of controlling their members' actions during strikes or, thirdly, union bosses could find that strike actions that degenerated into lawlessness helped their cause, he said.

Ollis said the law will not have effect on peaceful and lawful strikes and would only come into effect when union members acted outside the law.