Navigating strike action in South Africa: A guide for employers

Navigating strike action in South Africa: A guide for employers

Business, Human Resources

Author: Kalleigh Gore

Strike action is relatively common in South Africa. In 2023, South African businesses lost 4.9 million workdays to strikes, doubling the number of lost workdays from the previous year according to the South African Reserve Bank.

The upcoming election in South Africa further complicates the strike landscape. Political uncertainties often amplify grievances, potentially increasing the frequency or intensity of strikes. Employers should remain vigilant and proactive in their approach to mitigate disruptions and maintain workplace stability amidst these external factors.

The Constitution grants workers the right to strike, albeit within certain limitations outlined in the Labour Relations Act. The Act establishes parameters for permissible industrial action and provides safeguards against unfair dismissal for participating employees, distinguishing between “protected” and “unprotected” strikes.

Employers do have the option of a lock-out, legally suspending operations by denying workplace access until resolution. However, strict procedural guidelines under the Labour Relations Act must be followed, including providing written notice to trade unions and/or employees. This measure can only be implemented if disputes persist after referral to the Bargaining Council or the CCMA.

During a lock-out, employees typically forgo regular wages or salaries, though specifics may vary based on contracts and labour laws. Professional advice from a labour lawyer or HR specialist is advised for compliance and determining compensation protocols.

Managing strike action in South Africa demands a strategic and nuanced approach. The key tools for employers are a good understanding of the legislation and clear communication plans and implementation.

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