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Don't become a victim of violence and hostility when strikers return to work

by , 24 January 2013
The Western Cape fruit pickers and packers' two-week strike for better wages has been called off as they secured a 50% hike. Time to breathe a sigh of relief? Not just yet. According to a recent study,'Strike action in South Africa is often characterised by violence, with lots of the fatalities arising from clashes between strikers and non-striking workers.' Here are five tips you can use to avoid violence and hostility in the workplace when strikers return to work.

Nearly 200 people have been killed in strike action in the past 13 years, writes Dean Wingrin in an article on DefenceWeb. This is according to figures compiled by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) that were published in the latest South Africa Survey this week.  
 
These figures indicate how strike action in South Africa is often 'characterised by violence, with lots of the fatalities arising from clashes between … strikers and non-striking workers', says Boitumelo Sethlatswe, a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations.
 
But this anger doesn't just disappear.
 
So what should you do if strikers become violent when they return to work after a strike is called off?
 
There are five ways to instantly diffuse violence and hostility, as reported in the FSP Business Labour Bulletin.
 
Five ways to diffuse hostility in your workplace after a strike
 
1) Listen, paraphrase and emphasise
Sometimes the surprise factor of really listening to someone is enough to neutralise the angry person's energy. Don't interrupt when they express themselves, as this can fuel the fire.
 
2) Don't ever react in anger
The longer you're able to stay perfectly calm in the face of a visibly upset person, the more 'in-control' you'll appear, in contrast to their emotional irrationality.
 
3) A defensive reaction makes you look guilty
The longer you back-peddle in public, the more 'guilty' you'll seem.
 
4) Gracefully sidestep 'loaded' questions
A 'loaded' question is filled with emotion or underlying accusations. Rather rephrase the question or ask questions back. This'll get their agenda out in the open and get your attacker to offer specifics that are easier to deal with and buy you time to think.
 
5) Develop exit strategies
If an opponent simply won't let up, ask for the person's name. This strips away their anonymity.
 
Use these tips to stay calm if strikers are hostile or start threatening violence when they return to work after a strike is called off.

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