National shutdown: How businesses can deal with the impact of strike action in the workplace

File Photo Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

File Photo Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

Published Aug 23, 2022


Johannesburg - When workers embark on strike action, it has a ripple effect on the businesses, particularly SMEs that don't have a large staff complement.

Being short-staffed results in service delivery delays and can cause financial strain on the business.

Employees may resort to taking strike action for a multitude of reasons, including having to work excessive hours, low wages, any form of discrimination, lack of tools and resources, and mismanagement.

Trade union federations Cosatu and Saftu have called on all non-essential workers to down tools and partake in strike action on Wednesday, August 24.

They are calling on the government to intervene in the cost of the living crisis faced by the country, amid rising fuel costs, unemployment, and the privatisation of state owned entities.

During a media briefing held on Monday, Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, asked that ordinary workers, professional workers, black and white, and middle-class workers heed the call to stay away from work. Protest marches are planned for all provinces.

The strike is a legally protected strike which means that technically employers cannot take disciplinary action against those employees who choose to participate.

While the planned strike action by Cosatu and Saftu will only be for one day, it is an apt reminder of how strike action can affect businesses.

Devan Moonsamy, CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, gives some advice on how to manage the impact of a strike on your business.

– The moment there are whispers around a possible strike by employees, get into a room with the union members to understand what the grievances are. This will help you get ahead of the issue and prevent a major setback in service delivery.

There is no guarantee that each time things will work in your favour, and you will be able to resolve the issues before it escalates to a protest. But what this would show your employees is that you value their role in your organisation and that you want to ensure if they are experiencing any challenges, then you are willing to assist them to overcome them.

– Have a good HR team that is properly skilled and able to handle the queries of staff. This will create a more secure environment for staff to channel their concerns and see that it is dealt with. Implement continuous training and staff wellness programmes to acknowledge the grievances of staff. This will allow you to monitor their satisfaction as an employee of the organisation. Improving your staff's skills and investing in their wellness will show the staff your vested interest in their development.

– When staff does embark on a strike, ensure that there are protocols that can be put in place to manage the circumstances of a strike. Things like getting a security company involved to prevent vandalism and disruptions are key. Chances are staff won’t be disruptive but criminal elements might see this as an opportunity to sow discord.

– There is no telling how a strike might turn out. Having a plan to manage the situation is necessary to try and mitigate the overall impact the strike has on the business. The sooner negotiations happen, the better it will be for the staff and employer.

IOL Business