JOHANNESBURG - Strikes are common feature in South Africa’s industrial relations.
The Department of Labour’s latest Industrial Action Report by the Department of Labour shows that industrial strikes have increased 8 percent annually. Protecting your business from the potential negative repercussions of a strike is therefore an imperative. You can handle the situation like a pro by following these simple tips:
Striking is in itself, mostly, legal. A protected strike is one that complies with the Labour Relations Act where the subject matter is legitimate and procedural requirements are followed. As such, it is vital to know your rights as a business and the do’s and don'ts to protect your staff and business from possible harm to property or loss of revenue. It is important therefore to familiarise yourself with the Act.
It is always advisable to have a plan prepared for the event of a strike in your business. You might want to set up a crisis management team consisting of senior managers or create a specific security plan for possible worst-case-scenarios.
Strikes usually arise because of a dispute between management and staff, so try to maintain positive relationships with all stakeholders - including the trade unions - to prevent unnecessary tension. Even during a possible strike, building levels of trust between negotiators should be a priority to ensure the results of the collective bargaining are more favourable.
Property often gets exposed to the risk of vandalism during a strike, something that can be warded off through an effective surveillance camera and alarm system.Read the small print of your insurance policy to see if it covers any damages from strikes or consider taking out additional cover. Of top priority should be protecting those staff who are not participating in the strike from possible physical assault or intimidation.
Although it may be tempting to close up shop during a strike or the threat of one, weigh up whether the damage to business output and reputation could be greater if you were to halt activities. Even if you need to change offices temporarily, try to keep your business productive to avoid missing deadlines and letting down clients. Consider having back-up teams on standby, made up of freelancers or temporary staff, so that productivity doesn’t grind to a halt.
If a strike continues illegally, look to take legal action by approaching the Labour Court. Compiling a post-strike report, with hard evidence of any damages made to business assets or property, can be useful as support for any criminal charges brought at a later stage. By keeping a record you’ll also know what to look out for in the future.
Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.