South Africa: New Legislation Requiring Secret Strike Ballots Is the Latest in South Africa's Intra-Union Battles

analysis

The requirement to have a secret ballot prior to establishing a legally protected strike is now law in South Africa, generating some speculation about whether it will help temper strike intensity and quantity. But it has also, inevitably, become an issue in itself, with Cosatu breakaway unions now threatening to take the issue to the Constitutional Court, in order to get it overturned. How does this all play out?

One of Nedlac's great achievements in the recent past was the agreement on a new and higher minimum wage. But the agreement came with a caveat insisted on by business: that to have a legally protected strike, workers would have to first have a secret ballot.

That has not been put into practice and it's causing some growling and grumbling.

Reconstructing motivations and history a little freely, it seems the logic behind the move worked something like this: for business, it was clear that they were going to lose the issue of a higher minimum wage in Nedlac. The government was strongly supportive, as were of course trade unions and the community groups, over-riding business' argument that a higher minimum wage would reduce overall employment - an argument which, as it...

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