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HR 101 – What to do when . . . Your staff want to strike – Part 5

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

Replacement labour is the topic on the table today. Let’s have a look at the reality of a strike.

A strike can have devastating financial implications to a company. Look at the results of some of the strikes that took place over the last couple of years.

Think about Pick ‘n Pay – the last really bad one that I remember is when shoppers were confronted with “Toi Toi-ing” staff as they tried to enter the stores to do their shopping. I remember Jeremy Mansfield of Highveld Stereo trying to make light of the situation by saying something along the lines of “I have never felt so welcome in all of my life – there were what seemed like hundreds of people singing and dancing as they came towards me with arms open wide to greet me and welcome me into the store!” Ja Boet – and I also believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy! Jokes aside, many customers did not want to be personally ‘welcomed’ into the store and despite assurances that they would not be harmed in any way, they chose to shop elsewhere. I have no doubt that millions of Rands worth of turnover was lost by the company.

Now in this situation, Pick n’ Pay would have no alternative but to hire replacement labour if they wanted to have any kind of turnover at all and if they did not want to close their doors to the public.

It is a given however, that replacement staff, irrespective of whether they have been supplied by a labour broker or sourced by yourselves or even if you use your own staff from other areas, will invariably be subjected to intimidation and even physical and verbal abuse in some instances. So you need to ensure that they necessary precautionary steps are in place to ensure that your replacement labour is protected.

You can (and perhaps should) for example install some additional security surveillance such as CCTV type camera and video set ups or hire additional independent security. Whatever you do, inform the union of what you are doing or intend to do in order to re-enforce their responsibility to ensure that they control their members.

Be aware though, that all of these additional bits and pieces will have a financial implication too. Don’t for a minute think that a strike is not going to cost you and ultimately prevention is always better that cure (and often a lot cheaper in the long run).

Next week we will look at what a ‘lock out’ is and the benefits or implications of having one.

 

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