When unions are under pressure the LRA’s teeth are bared


The recent amendments to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) 2019, as well as a general clamp-down on compliance, has already resulted in the Media Worker’s Association of SA (MWASA) being de-registered because it had failed to submit its financial statements since its inception in 2013. It has taken some time, but the powers of the registrar have set a precedent for unions and employer organisations. MWASA’s status as a trade union has therefore been stripped.
The registrar at Department of Labour applied the LRA provisions which state that unions need to comply with their own constitutions and with the LRA. If this does not happen, the trade union will be deregistered and they will lose organisational rights. The result of this is that the union will not be able to collect member subscriptions and operate.

In addition, under the LRA amendments trade unions and employer organisations need to have a clause, in their constitutions, which allows for secret ballots. If trade unions and employer organisations do not make provision for these types of ballots this could potentially be another material non-compliance and could lead to the trade union being de-registered. The inclusion of the secret ballot will have a big impact on the approach to strikes and specifically in ensuring the democratic right of employees to participate.

It is the belief of Jonathan Goldberg, CEO of Global Business Solutions, that the long-term view that the Constitutional right to strike is only protected in terms of what is free and fair in an open and fair democratic society. Violence and intimidation has been a big part of the strikes seen in South Africa. The latest Sibanye Gold strike was accompanied by a number of deaths allegedly associated with the strike. As Mcebisi Jonas writes, in his latest book, civil society needs to get involved and demonstrate against this kind of conduct that has no place in South Africa.

In relation to the Sibanya Gold strike there are pictures of a child with severe burns, owing to home petrol bombings, that are circulating on social media. Reports are that another child was killed. Innocent children are being either killed or serious hurt in these kinds of demonstrations which clearly is completely unacceptable. It is heartening to see the Registrar is acting in terms of his powers granted in the legislation.

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