As someone whose trade union credentials cannot be questioned, Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, knew that he was going to step on a few toes in the labour union fraternity when he expressed his blunt sentiment on strikes, and was prepared to take the flak. He revealed that government may push ahead with reforms to adjust labour laws so that union members have to vote before joining a strike action.
To a large degree, Ramamphosa raised a valid point. Union leaders are not best known for consulting their legions of members on whether a strike is the best option, or whether they might be willing to make compromises on new wage offers from employers.
Precisely, what union members get horribly wrong are the following facts:
1) Not every card-carrying member of their organisation may be willing to participate in a strike.
2) Their members cannot outlive the duration of a strike without a salary. The recently ended five month platinum strike has cruelly corroborated this: driven to depths of despair majority of miners could not even afford a loaf of bread for a meal.
3) Peddling their unions as the best thing to happen to the labour movement in South Africa and being unreasonably uncompromising in their negotiations with employers just to prove a point.
4) Failing to encourage their members to upgrade their skills or gain new skills. New skills enable employees to be more productive and justify the cause to push for a higher pay for members.
5) Dragging their members into political fights that originate from the tripartite alliance, which given a choice, they would not be willing to be involved in.