Letter: Don’t put jobs on the line with an ill-timed strike

We have recently heard the depressing unemployment figures announced for the Eastern Cape which will no doubt be exacerbated in the future when GM pulls out and its effect on the down-the-line suppliers is felt.

It is incredible that, given this scenario, there are workers who would put their jobs at risk for yet another ill-timed demand.

I am not defending blatant poor labour practices and if there is a clause for overtime to be paid given certain circumstances, then this should be satisfied.

However, when all the demands have been met at the end of the day and good labour practices are the norm, the unions become aware of their relevance so they start to nit-pick so that they can say to the workers, “Hey! We are still here”.

The competition between Cosatu and the new federation under Zwelinzima Vavi is also providing a fair amount of activity among unions including the municipal workers’ union.

Many large companies and investment groups have admitted to sitting with large amounts of cash which could be invested into this country, but given the uncertainty about so many things, we will not see their money sometime soon.

Not least of the reasons for uncertainty is a labour situation which has lost touch with reality.

I am sure that if the municipality was to advertise jobs in the cleansing section, given the exact same conditions that prevail at the moment, it would be flooded with applicants.

That is not to say that once the union allegedly starts to sew dissatisfaction among the new workers we would not be in the same boat.

I remember a political leader I knew in Transkei who bemoaned a situation in which he said, “Mr Dodds, my people want jobs but they don’t want to work”.

Nothing seems to have changed.

Jobs right now are like diamonds and they need to be guarded, but this does not give employers the right to take advantage of the demand versus supply situation. Slavery is long gone. Unions have a lot to answer for in the situation we find ourselves in, with unrealistic demands leading to strikes and then after three weeks of violence and damage, settling to very close to what the employer was offering.

This after threatening at the beginning of the strike that they would “never return to work until their demands were fully met”, the usual union claptrap.

We need the clothing and footwear industry to get going again and this will only happen when we can employ people at competitive wages – not necessarily what the unions will demand – but at the same time introduce import tariffs to assist the local industry.

At the same time we need to get retailers to support the local manufacturers by making a minimum purchase limit of locally made product offering a tax incentive, which becomes more and more attractive the more of the local product they buy.

I am sure that this idea will be shot to pieces, but it could start some thought process if nothing else.

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