When political parties begin to take over the roles of Trade Unions, there is cause for great concern in the progress of South Africa’s new democracy. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), long a disrupter in the South African political landscape, has recently turned to workplace disruption.
What does this say for the effective and well delineated workplace laws that we have in South Africa? Does it contribute or add to the breakdown in the Rule of Law?
I recently give advice where the EFF, in its capacity as a political party, sent a letter to an employer raising a set of grievances, which for all intents and purposes, was within the remit of the Trade Union.
The workplace did have a Trade Union, recognised by the employer with the associated rights that a duly recognised Trade Union enjoys.
The demands were founded on the political manifesto of the EFF.
I do support political parties assisting members or citizens, if there are issues of rights in law that are being violated. However, as a political party, the obligation would be to advise membership to follow the principles set out in the legislation of the country. Nothing stops citizens raising concerns via their parliamentary voice, if the relevant state entities do not assist, or the trouble persists.
What happened here was not that. The EFF, from its branch that operates where the employer is situated, attempted to engage the employer on a list of grievances and demands, which included employees alleged grievances against the Trade Union, to which they were paying dues, and their duly democratically elected shop stewards.
Led by the EFF, the workers proceeded on an unprotected strike and through the EFF made demands of the employer. This was done without following the recognised bargaining principles that the law enjoins everyone to follow.
Disruption of the employers business, reputational loss, damage to business continuity as well as damage to workplace relationships, ensued.
History of EFF and employees
When initially asked about this, the first thing that came to mind was my experiences at Marikana.
It was at Marikana that I first saw the letters ‘EFF’. So, I can appreciate that EFF members may believe they have the right to deal with labour issues, since as an organisation they emerged from the foothills of Marikana.
They elected to become a political party and have aligned themselves with the trade union, AMCU. In so doing, they demonstrate that they are aware of the rights and obligations that a collective has in relation to workplaces, as well as the delineation of political and workplace roles.
Source: https://www.bbrief.co.za/2018/10/16/politics-unions-is-workplace-disruption-for-political-gain-criminal/: Referenced 18/10/18