Mar 27,2012 / News / E-Bulletin

COSATU will mobilise its members to participate in mass protest action against labour brokers and the Gauteng e tolling system on 7 March.

This protest action has incorrectly been described in the media as a ‘national strike’. A strike is a refusal to work for the purpose of remedying employees’ grievances or resolving a dispute of mutual interest between an employer and its employees.

Protest is the refusal to work for the purpose of defending or promoting the socio-economic interests of workers. In this case, the socio economic rights involved are (according to COSATU) the ‘commodification’ of public services (i.e. roads as public assets) and secondly, labour brokering as a form of ‘modern day slavery’.”

COSATU is calling upon workers to support the protest action by engaging in work stoppages, rallies, marches, demonstrations, placard demonstrations and pickets in all major towns and cities. Violence, destruction, coercion and intimidation have proven to be commonplace in the past during similar action and could become a reality once again. As such, it is vital for both employees and employers to understand what rights are afforded to them as per the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

In terms of the LRA every employee who takes part in protected protest action:

cannot be dismissed for taking part in the action;
cannot be held liable for breach of contract for participating and has immunity from legal action should the employer suffer losses due to the action; and
has the right to picket.

These rights are, however, conditional and protestors may not engage in assault, intimidation, malicious damage to property or other acts that amount to criminal offences.

If they do they will not be protected by the LRA and can be dismissed for such offences. The LRA also provides certain rights and protection to employers during protected protest action. These include:

Employers may withhold employees’ wages for not attending work during a protest;
Employers may employ replacement labour (casuals).

It should also be noted, however, that if employees’ remuneration includes payment in kind (such as accommodation, the provision of food and other basic amenities of life), the employer cannot discontinue this during the protected protest action.