During her address to the Cosatu congress yesterday the Minister of Labour pleaded for unity and cohesion to advance the National Democratic Revolution, according to the Cosatu website.   The Minister mentioned a number of concerns, set out below, and stated there were 185 registered trade unions and 23 labour federation in the records of her department and that 70% of employees were not unionised.

  • The low levels of trade union density in the private sector; the emergence of rival unions which are often set up by union officials who once were leaders of the same union they seek to destabilise.
  • Unions that are quick to call workers out on strikes even in cases where a strike has no real potential of producing different results.
  • Strikes which tend to be protracted yet workers are often no better off than they would have been if the strike was some-what shorter.
  • The painful disconnect between a long strike and the value of the final settlement.  Why go out on strike for several weeks or months if the final settlement is a mere half a percent or even less in some cases?
  • Strikes that last longer than is necessary yet you hear union leaders bragging about how long they were able to sustain a strike with zero recognition of the post-traumatic stress that often visit members after the strike.
  • Special attention needs to be given to the new phenomenon of workers engaging their employers directly without the involvement of their trade union.  A recipe for anarchy.
  • It does not seem like the cost and benefit analysis informs the union leadership when deciding to call workers out on strike and at which point does it need to be called off.
  • One gets the impression that strikes are no longer considered as the last resort after everything else has failed.  Well, others are saying strikes have become a fashion statement and are often used as something to prove a point among rival unions, rather than a tool to get what members want.