n Law, Democracy & Development - Time for the tide to change for rules of engagement in labour law : a proposal for effective wage dispute resolution

Volume 22 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



A recent plethora of in instances of labour unrests and in particular lengthy wage strikes indicate that South African labour law is in need of reform. All the more so, if dispute settlement between trade unions and employers is prolonged resulting in workers suffering financial loss. In some instances, trade unions use the bargaining process as grist to the mill of their own agendas, and this culminates in employees and employers absorbing the full impact of the prolonged strikes. Some of these prolonged strikes not only have an adverse financial effect on the employees’ income but also have a negative impact on certain sectors of the economy. Unemployment and to a relative extent loss of income, for both employers and employees, are a major concern in South Africa. It is for these reasons that the law ought to try another tack, and that labour policy has to change under the pressure of necessity. Accordingly, the thesis of this article is motivated by recent improprieties in industrial actions. In truth, any system of law needs to serve its purpose efficiently, otherwise it should be reformed. A developing economy should as far as necessary evade needless strikes, in that such strikes have a negative impact on both employment and economic growth. The effect of the unreasonable demands (wages) on employment in general cannot be undervalued. In most cases costly demands may lead the employer to resort to retrenchment of workers, possibly for operational reasons. Therefore, for the protection of workers employment, wage increments must be reasonable and affordable.

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