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Do you know how to minimise the impact of strike action when employees go on an unprotected strike?

by , 08 July 2013
News reports this morning are indicating that Metrobus drivers in Johannesburg have embarked on a strike. According to SowetanLive, South African Municipal Workers Union(Samwu) chairman at Metrobus, Phanuel Tshikovha said the drivers were demanding Metrobus acting managing director Lawrence Maqekoane be suspended pending an investigation into allegations levelled against him. The priority for Metrobus will be to minimise the impact of the strike action. And that's what you'll be faced with as well should your employees embark on an unprotected strike. Read on to find out how to minimise the impact of strike action in your company.

The SowetanLive, reports that the union wants Maqekoane to be investigated for allegedly violating company polices. They want him out of the office so he won't manipulate the investigation.

According to the report, Samwu has said the strike will go on until an agreement is reached. Workers are also complaining about shift rosters and leave days.

The Metrobus drivers strike comes a week after Pikitup workers embarked on an indefinite go-slow. According to Eye Witness News, Pikitup staff are protesting against working conditions and are unhappy about transport expenses.

Strikes have a number of unpleasant consequences for a company, including financial loss – and Metrobus and Pikitup will certainly feel the pinch as these strikes gain momentum.

That's why it's essential you need to know how to respond when your employees resort to strike action to minimise the damage it causes.

Generally, there are certain procedural requirements that should be complied with before your employees embark upon a protected strike.

But, what happens when these procedures aren't followed and they go in an unprotected strike?

What to do when employees go on an unprotected strike

If your employees don't follow the procedures their strike isn't protected. This means they aren't protected from dismissal.

It also means that, as an employer, you can approach the Labour Court for an urgent interdict to prevent them from continuing with the strike.

If employees continue to strike despite an interdict, you can start thinking about dismissal.

Although 'you don't have to first get an interdict before you consider dismissal, it is usually best to do so, as this places you in a stronger position to defend the fairness of the dismissal,' advises the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

What classifies as a procedurally fair dismissal when it comes to striking employees?

To effect a procedurally fair dismissal of striking employees, you're obliged to follow a fair procedure.

This means you must:

  • Issue a written ultimatum to striking employees to return to work or face dismissal. The written ultimatum must be clear. You must ensure it's conveyed in such a manner that the employees understand that, in effect, they're being warned to return to work or face dismissal. It's also important that you give employees' sufficient time to respond to the ultimatum. Also keep in mind that if the employees are represented by a union, you must advise the union of the ultimatum and seek their intervention.
  • Give your employees a hearing before you decide finally to dismiss them. In past instances, 'the Labour Appeal Court has held that it is not enough to give employees an ultimatum to return to work,' says the Loose Leaf. If your employees don't adhere to the ultimatum, you must give them a chance to be heard before you dismiss because there may be a good reason why they haven't adhered to the ultimatum.

There you have it! These are your options should your employees embark on an unprotected strike. Use them to help your company minimise the impact of the strike action before you land in a similar position to the one Metrobus and Pikitup find themselves in this week.

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