Mar 12, 2013

Down tools and misconceptions!


“ Amandla! Ngawethu!”

This phrase is one very common to many South Africans as protest and strike action is a common feature of our landscape. Media coverage of most strike action tends to be quite sensationalised and filled with headlines that emphasis the chaos and violence that may occur.

So when we were given a lecture on the intricacies of strike reporting by a very dynamic labour lawyer, I was blown at how much there is to this facet of reporting.

The right to strike is one enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa. Strike action serves as an essential tool in collective bargaining. Within this process, the employer is bound to bargain more fairly as it balances the chance of the employer to make independent decisions that may affect the workers. Therefore, the first misconception that plagues civil society is that that a strike is in fact illegal. This is not is the case rather the strike may not be protected. In order for a strike to be classified as lawful/protected it must be in line with the Labour Relations Act definition of a strike. This definition includes the need to induce an answer. Strikers must all know the common cause of the strike and there has to a definite ability to end the strike action. If a strike does not fit this definition it is an abuse of strike rights. This gives the employer the right to dismiss any employees who partake in an unprotected strike.

As mentioned previously, when strike action occurs (well the ones that are more inclined to sell newspapers or guarantee viewers- as strikes happen often but only a few receive wild media attention) there is a great deal of sensationalised information. Problems in representation are always an issue as media personal are more inclined to approach and have bias toward corporations and little conversation is had with the people who are actually striking. There can be no general theory of what causes strikes. One must also realise that it is always in the best interest of the employer to exaggerate the amount of damage that is caused in a strike. Therefore one is to be sceptical about the information released/covered during the time of strike. A recent example would be what occurred in Marikana last year. However another thing that journalists and civil society should be aware of, are the kind of statistics that are thrown around during a time of strike. These are usually gathered in a way that can fit in a certain reason for the strike action.  One must remember that strike action is very multi-layered entity.
There are also different kinds of strikes, such as:

·         Offensive economic strikes: This is not limited to money but also places emphasis on leave time too. There is a concern for better hours of work and working conditions.

·         Defensive frictional strikes: These are responses to unfair management conduct. These include a change in employment conditions, supervision and the like.

·         Solidarity –building strikes: These promote the need aims of the union in trying to accomplish recognition from the employer.

·         General strikes: This includes a large number of workers from varying industries against the conditions in the labour environment.

Other forms of industrial action are often left out of the coverage in contemporary media. Some of these include, “go-slows” which is the deliberate retardation of work. Sit-in would be where employees occupy a common space within the office space. Other versions include work stoppage; this is a refusal to which then goes against the parameters set up by the Labour Laws.

It appears that with so many facets that make up the world of strike action. It would appear that the media has done well to misinform the public space. If a reported where to get acquainted with the rights and parameters that are given to workers, perhaps issues of representation would not be the one of the biggest issues that plagues the media realm.

from the creaks of the cottage.xx

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