The DA’s 2006 bill to hold unions accountable
by The Editor
SERIES: The instantaneous and dramatic nature of current affairs lends itself to a kind of historical amnesia, one where the captivating nature of those things unfolding today, causes one to forget the bigger picture. From the Archives aims to put forward the odd reminder that, more often than not, history is merely repeating itself. In all likelihood, somewhere, someone has already experienced and commented on those all-consuming issues that appear to have materialised only yesterday. Today, the DA’s 2006 Private Members Bill designed to hold unions accountable for any damage caused during striking, an idea recently endorsed by the Constitutional Court.
The DA’s 2006 bill to hold unions accountable
There are currently two ideas, both the source of intense public interest, which the DA has long since advocated for: a Youth Wage Subsidy and legislation designed to hold union members accountable for damaged caused during industrial action.
Of these, the latter – legislation to hold unions accountable – was first proposed by the DA’s then-spokesperson on labour, Mark Lowe MP, in June 2006, who submitted a Private Members Bill to this effect.
It was motivated by damage caused by Satawu during a series of strikes across the country that year. Here are some pictures from Cape Town, at the time:
It was, predictably, rejected by the ANC. When Jacob Zuma was elected to office and a new parliament established in 2009, the DA’s Ian Ollis MP resubmitted an amended version of the bill. The matter has now been resolved by the Constitutional Court, which has found that unions are indeed liable. No doubt government will have to amend the law to this effect and the DA’s various pieces of legislation might well be a good place to start.
So, for those of you interested in history, I thought I would republish the DA’s original 2006 statement on the matter and our first Private Members Bill. They follow below.
It is unfortunate that the courts have now had to resolve this matter but significant that the ANC has been sidelining this idea since 2006. For six years it has been aware of the proposal and chosen to ignore it. That says much about the ANC. Likewise it tells you something about the kind of influence the unions are able to exercise over it. One wonders which way the Youth Wage Subsidy (first proposed by the DP in the late 90s) will go.
One way or the other, it is comforting that, ultimately, a good idea was endorsed, despite the ANC.
STATEMENT BY MARK LOWE MP
DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE SPOKESPERSON ON LABOUR
“DA submits Private Members’ Bill to hold unions liable for strike damages”
Release, immediate: Sunday June 18, 2006
I have this week submitted a Private Members Bill that, if adopted, would hold trade unions civilly liable for any damage or loss suffered by any legal person as a direct result of union members’ strike-related activities. The Private Members’ Bill proposes the insertion of clauses to this effect under sections 67 and 68 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) of 1995.
One of the main purposes of the LRA is to protect the right to strike in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The DA recognises and supports this right and deems the provisions of the Act adequate in this respect. However, nowhere does the Act explicitly provide for recourse for non union members in the event that they have suffered damage or loss as a direct result of industrial action.
The pertinence and urgency of such an amendment was amply demonstrated by the recent rampages in our cities by Satawu strikers. Business owners and civilians present in the area around the parliamentary precinct on May the 16th still relate with horror the magnitude of the destruction and terror that was sown there.
The DA has learnt the lesson that this fiasco bore. It is now up to our colleagues in Parliament and the government to answer the cries from the electorate to be given the right to grow our economy without fear that such incidents of “legalised thuggery” could be repeated.
LABOUR RELATIONS ACT AMENDMENT BILL
Private Members’ Bill
Submitted in terms of Section 73 (2)
Read with Section 76 (1) of the Constitution
Notice is hereby given of the introduction of a Private Members’ Bill in terms of Section 73 (2) read with Section 76 (1) of the Constitution. In terms of rule 234 (read with rule 230 (1), a member must submit to the Speaker a memorandum which:
• sets out particulars of the proposed legislation
• explains the objects of the proposed legislation; and
• states whether the proposed legislation will have financial implications for the State and, if so, whether those implications may be a determining factor when the proposed legislation is considered.
The Honourable Speaker is requested to deal with this Bill in terms of Section 235 of the National Assembly Rules.
PARTICULARS OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION
The following amendments to the Labour Relations Act 1995 (Act 66 of 1995) [hereinafter referred to as “the Act”] are proposed:
AMENDMENTS TO the ACT
That section 67 under Chapter IV be amended by the insertion of the following after subsection (9):
(10) A union and/or a federation of trade unions may, jointly and severally, be held civilly liable for any damage or loss that may be incurred by a member of the public, or by private- or public bodies, where the damage or loss results directly from the activities of a member or members of that union and/or federation of trade unions in the participation, contemplation or furtherance of a protected strike supported the union and/or federation of trade unions was formally a party to.
1.2 That section 68 under Chapter IV be amended by the insertion of the following after subsection (5):
(6) A union and/or a federation of trade unions may, jointly and severally, be held civilly liable for any damage or loss that may be incurred by a member of the public, or by private- or public bodies, where the damage or loss results directly from the activities of a member or members of that union and/or federation of trade unions in the participation, contemplation or furtherance of an unprotected strike supported the union and/or federation of trade unions was formally a party to.
THE OBJECTS OF THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION
One of the main purposes of the Act is to protect the right to strike in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
While the provisions of the Act are currently deemed adequate in this respect, it is submitted that at present the Act does not provide sufficient protection to members of the public, private- or public institutions in instances where the activities of members of trade unions, or federations of trade unions relating to the contemplation and furtherance of, or participation in a strike directly causes damage to of loss of property.
The proposed amendment is intended to address this shortcoming.
The Legislation will have no financial implications.
Name of Member: Mark Lowe
Date: 16 June 2006
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