Here is a tough question for Workers' Day: Why are South African labour relations so fraught and so violent? And an even tougher question: What should we do about it?
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Like all complex questions, the reasons are multifold, and the fault lies, inevitably perhaps, with all parties; government, business and labour. And behind it all lies two deeper problems: greed and desperation.
I'll get to that in a moment, but just to sketch the background: several recent incidents in labour relations, to me at least, are highly indicative. The first example is the letter sent by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to the management of Eskom. The letter overall suggests a kind of militant cockyness that is just mind-boggling.
The headline demand is for a 15% overall increase. You have to pinch yourself a bit; there seems to be zero appreciation for the fact that the organisation is bankrupt. It's not just bankrupt itself - that would be bad enough. It's so bankrupt that it threatens the fiscal probity of the entire state.
It invites a kind of shocked disbelief to anyone unfamiliar with the modus operandi and mind-bending conceit...