n Journal of Public Administration - A critical analysis of the 2010 public service strike in South Africa : a service delivery approach

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The 108 of 1996 states that every worker has the right to form and join a trade union participate in the activities and programmes of a trade union and to strike (Clause 23(2)).The Constitution further states that every trade union employer's organisation and employer has the right to engage in collective bargaining and everyone has the right peacefully and unarmed to assemble demonstrate picket and present petitions. It is further enacted that everyone has the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources and everyone has the right to have access to basic services food and water social security and education. In terms of the basic values and principles governing public administration professional ethics must be promoted and maintained and people's needs must be responded to (Chapter 10 Clause 195(1)). The 1995 endorses the Constitutional right of employees to participate in forming a trade union (Chapter 2) to participate in its lawful activities and to strike. The Act however points out that no person may take part in a strike if that person is engaged in an essential or maintenance service (Clause 65(1)). Essential services are according to the LRA (Section 213) those services whose interruption would endanger the life personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. The LRA does not specify or is not specific as to which services can be classified as essential. According to Nel this could be because if a strike is lengthy or is characterised by violence the services of that sector can be classified as essential (Nel 2008:233). The LRA thus does not want to 'tie its hands and feet' so to speak hence the establishment of the Essential Services Committee (LRA 1995 Section 70) whose main function is to conduct investigations as to whether or not the whole or a part of any service is an essential or a maintenance service. In terms of the Act a maintenance service is one whose interruption has the effect of material physical destruction to any working area plant or machinery (Section 75(1)). It also refers to a 'protected strike' which is a strike that complies with Chapter IV of the Act. A 'protected strike' is a strike where if the State is the employer at least seven day's notice of the commencement of the strike has been given to the parties involved (Clause 64 1(d)). The question arises as to what extent the right to strike on the part of trade union members employed by the state violates the rights of citizens to have access to basic services and to be free from all forms of violence and intimidation. The paper seeks to examine this quandary which emanates from the strike by more than 1 million public servants in South Africa during August 2010 which saw services particularly in the Education and Health Sectors being greatly affected. The strike was also characterised by violence and intimidation of non-striking employees by striking employees. In the words of the South African National Minister of Health Dr Aaroon Motsoaledi intimidating assaulting and victimising a non-striking nurse performing duties on a patient in a theatre is tantamount to 'murder'. The source of the strike was a demand by labour unions for a salary hike of 8.6% and a housing allowance of R1 000.00 a month to which government responded with a 7% hike and a R700.00 a month housing allowance.

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