gideonduplessisGideon du Plessis, general secretary of trade union Solidarity, notes that the requirement for unions to run a secret ballot requiring majority support before declaring a strike recently became law.  

For employers, the strike clause is important in order to enhance collective bargaining especially as one alternative could be a violent strike – something of a norm, especially in the mining sector.  The secret strike ballot is also aimed at protecting employees from forced participation in a strike.  The secret ballot amendment had not come into effect at the time of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu’s) failed five-months strike at Sibanye-Stillwater earlier this year when members did not get one cent more than the non-striking members.  In that case, the strike ballot took place by means of a show of hands at a mass meeting.  Typically at such a meeting, writes Du Plessis, there are about 12 ringleaders, called the ‘A Team’, placed strategically in the crowd to support the strike vociferously during the vote and to intimidate members who are not putting up their hands.  The next task of the A Team, is to give the strike momentum by continuously inciting workers and intimidating non-strikers at workplaces and hostels.  The present impasse in the platinum sector wage negotiations between the platinum mining houses and Amcu is likely to be the first democratic test for Amcu members when they will have to vote secretly on a strike.  Du Plessis expresses the hope that “workplace democracy will not be characterised by ill-considered and ignorant voting as in political democracy.”

Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page