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While the right to strike is considered a sign of a healthy democracy, strike action also brings about numerous direct and indirect economic costs that can be high depending on a number of factors.

The Mandela Initiative recently conducted extensive research into the topic of strikes and labour unrest and came to several conclusions, chief among them that strikes and labour unrest have marked negative impacts on everyone from employers to employees and ultimately the economy.

Strike action results in less productivity, which in turn means fewer profits. “The employer is likely to lose money due to delayed service to clients or to lost production time. The employees will lose their pay due to the no work, no pay principle. If the strikers are dismissed they will lose their livelihoods altogether,” notes Labour Law expert, Ivan Israelstam.

Jacki Condon, Managing Director of Apache Security Services adds: “The negative effects on international trade include the hinderance of economic development, creating great economic uncertainty – especially as the global media continues to share details, images and videos of violence, damage to property and ferocious clashes between strikers and security.”

Labour expert Suleyman Alley, notes that there are seven key causes of labour unrest:

  1. health hazards in the workplace;
  2. excessive working hours;
  3. low wages;
  4. demand for leave with pay;
  5. discrimination;
  6. inadequate working tools;
  7. aggressive behaviour of managers towards employees.
“While several activities can be taken in an effort to prevent strikes from occurring or escalating, in the South African context, the tendency towards violent outbursts seems to outweigh reasonable action,” Alley explains.

This is why Condon believes businesses must protect themselves, their assets, business property, and their non-striking employees from violence and intimidation.

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