Investigating the Need to Introduce Compulsory Interest Arbitration as a Method to Prevent Lengthy Strikes in South Africa

Author: Mlungisi Tenza

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 33 Issue 2, 2021, p. 176 – 199


The issue of lengthy strikes in South Africa has been a cause for concern since it destabilises the economy and can result in a loss of employment if it is not managed properly. A strike that takes too long to be resolved causes anger towards strikers, so creating a fertile environment for the eruption of violence between striking and non-striking workers. Damage to property and harm to civilians has been reported where striking workers have become violent during a strike. It appears that the existing remedies fail to curb long strikes and resultant violence, as unions and members continue with their action despite the granting of an order of interdict to stop the conduct. To solve the problem of long and consequently violent strikes, the article advocates the introduction of a compulsory interest arbitration in the labour relations law of South Africa. A compulsory interest arbitration will force the parties into arbitration once it is established that the strike has continued for an unreasonably long period without a solution. The use of compulsory interest arbitration will not be unique to South Africa, as other countries such as Canada and Australia use it in their labour relations systems – which helps them deal with long and possibly harmful or violent strikes. The article argues that lessons can be learned from these countries on how South Africa can deal with its own protracted strikes. The article further proposes that the LRA be amended to include a provision that will enable the Minister to intervene where the parties fail to reach agreement on disputed issues, and where it is in the public interest to do so. Introducing a compulsory interest arbitration in the labour relations system could limit the right to strike. However, the article argues that such a limitation may be justified in terms of s 36 of the Constitution.