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HR 101 – Out with the Old, In with the New – Part 2

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

So following on from last time – let’s have a look at some of the other changes that were made to the Act that received a typical ‘knee jerk’ reaction. They are (but not limited to).

Employees are entitled to refuse to do the work of colleagues who are on strike.

This, quite frankly is another favourite of mine and it honestly takes me back a few decades to my Corporate life, in the bank and the again in the retail sector.

Here are the stories:

During the late 70’s and early 80’s, I worked in one of the ‘lesser’ known banks in Cape Town. Those of you who were around at the time, will remember that here in South Africa we were in the middle of the apartheid era and life certainly was very different to what it is now.

Strikes and protests, although not quite the order of the day yet, were still fairly frequent and of course very disruptive. Imagine working in a job that is quite pressurized (I was a clerk in the foreign exchange department at the time and the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was in the throes of being built) and then having to take on a share of the work of the 5 or 6 employees who went on strike at every opportunity.

Working even longer than usual on a indefinite basis (who knew when the strike would end) doing work that was not mine and that I often did not even fully understand, often brought out huge resentment which would then be directed both at management, for putting me under this added pressure and for making me do work that was not mine and that I did not enjoy and my agitation was also directed at my striking colleagues, who by their striking actions, had put me in this position.

As you can imagine, inter office relationships deteriorated, both between colleagues and then also between management and employees and it actually resulted in many of the staff resigning (ironically, never the striking ones) and they were replaced by more staff who would also go on strike. It was an absolute relief when I was offered another position in another ‘lesser’ known bank in Johannesburg.

The second story is about when I was in the wholesale retail sector in the early 90’s. The apartheid era was coming to a close, but it was during the time when strikes and protests were the order of the day. I was, at the time a Senior Manager with around 50 employees working for me and more than half of these belonged to the unions and went on strike on a regular basis.

We were instructed to ‘share’ the work amongst the remaining staff and it pretty much also cause the same sort of problems that were caused in the previous story, but it gets worse.

You see, I still take pride in the work that I produce, irrespective of whether it is my work to produce or not, in the first place. Unfortunately, that cannot be said about the rest of the general workforce out there and the result of that was that most of the work had to be re-done, which caused even more delays and producing even more hostility.

Clearly forcing employees to do the work of striking colleagues is not good for morale and it is not good for the business.

So how do we turn this around and make it work for us. Well here’s the thing – when employees strike it’s a ‘no work, no pay’ kind of situation. Doesn’t it then make sense to hire a bunch of temps or casuals to do the absolute necessary of what needs to be done.

Here’s the deal then – getting other people in also provides the employer with a unique opportunity to observe prospective future employees at work and also in unusual circumstances. How cool is that?

Next week we will have a look at some of the other changes that were made to the law.