Violent, Frequent and Lengthy Strikes in South Africa: Is the Use of Replacement Labour Part of the Problem?

Authors Karin Calitz

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Professor, Faculty of Law, Stellenbosch University
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 28 Issue 3, 2016, p. 436 – 460


Frequent, protracted and violent strikes in South Africa are seen as a symptom of the failure of the country’s collective bargaining system. The proposed 2012 amendments to the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which aimed at preventing high strike levels and unacceptable behaviour during strikes, included a compulsory strike ballot and compulsory interest arbitration. These proposals were not included in the final version of the amended LRA because of opposition by the trade union federation Cosatu. This article endeavours to answer the question whether a ban on replacement labour could be conducive to peaceful industrial relations. Studies of the Canadian system indicated that there is no clear correlation between a ban on replacement labour and shorter and less frequent strikes, but there is strong evidence that a ban on replacement labour is conducive to generating less violent behaviour. In the light of the constitutional guarantee of the right to strike and the fact that there is clear evidence that replacement labour exacerbates violence during strikes, it is recommended that a ban be placed on replacement labour in South Africa.