Given the recent upsurge in strike activity (Recent Amcu / Platinum) and now the national strike by NUMSA in the Metal Engineering Industries, the question has to be asked what good industrial action does ,and if it has any positive effect on the labour market and economy.

At 10 500 business currently being affected by the NUMSA strike, and at R300 million rand being lost per day the results are surely not positive for the economy. It also leaves a bleak picture of our stability as an investing economy to foreign nations, keeping in mind that we have to compete on an international level.

In terms of the labour market these strikes may also result in further job losses, on the basis of retrenchment. In the matter between SACWU v Afrox Ltd, The Labour Appeal Court held the provisions of the LRA relating to dismissals based on operational requirements do not exclude dismissals in a strike context… In essence one may argue that retrenchment is a very real possibility in the strike context.

The bottom line is that staff, irrespective of whether they participated in this strike or not, may face retrenchment if the impact is to such an extent that it has resulted in the employer having no option but to cut its expenditure through means of retrenchment, so as to remain viable.

It is the unfortunate effect of a supposedly positive process, the collective bargaining process and the constitutional right to strike.

On the other side, one may argue that industrial action if handled responsibly is healthy and contributes to the economy and the standard of living of modern day employees. I would agree with this statement , however more rigorous legislative requirements would be needed to guide these processes.

As per the proposed amendments to the LRA, it has been suggested that unions should present proof that a fair ballot was held whereby staff in the majority supports the strike, before a certificate of non resolution may be issued, thereby protecting the strike.

Another suggestion had been made that if a strike continuous after a period of time, that parties should either voluntarily or by statute be brought to Arbitration, of which the decision to give the increase or not is final and binding, albeit that it is a dispute of interest and not right.

In essence these ideas, although some are bold, the discussions around these should be encouraged as one thing remains clear that resolutions have to be found as the current stance taken is definitely not impacting positively on either employer or employee.