THE leader of the Ozunu clan in the movie, Ninja Assassin, said, "Weakness compels strength, betrayal begets blood – this is the law".
In this country's case, workers are weak due to absurd legislation which gives them the right to form a union and to embark on industrial action, but undermines both the benefit of belonging to a union and striking legally by first allowing employers to bring in scab labour and then by making the wage increase, benefits and improved working conditions available to all workers.
In that case, why join a union or embark on a protected strike if the employer is allowed by law to negate the strike's impact and non-striking colleagues will benefit too? What leverage do the workers have? None.
Betrayed by both law and boss, bloodshed becomes inevitable – and this is the law of South African labour disputes.
Added to it is the ever-widening income disparity between people at the bottom and those on top, along with unrealistic promises made by the ANC during elections since 1994. There is also the creation of a culture of entitlement which cares nothing for the low monetary value of unskilled labour, causing a poorly educated workforce to demand salaries usually awarded to people in managerial positions who've studied at tertiary level for many years and have an intellectual sophistication the average miner can't even dream of.
Spread over most (if not all) industries, the combination of badly crafted laws, violence, inflationary pressures on salaries and unrealistic expectations have the potential to bring about the destruction of the South African state through mass social unrest.
The only hope we have is for all stakeholders to come together to fix the labour relations quagmire, encourage entrepreneurship, fix and upgrade infrastructure, fight corruption, enforce laws and bring some sense to workers, employers and, most importantly, civil servants and politicians – who not only vote themselves absurd increases, but steal public funds and then have the gall to parade at the opening of parliament like well-dressed, prize-winning hogs.
It's hard to tell a malnourished worker who struggles to feed himself and his family to behave nicely if you earn R800000 per year and are two steps shy of an obesity-induced heart attack.
M Negres, Port Elizabeth