As member companies may be aware from recent media reports, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), of which NUMSA is a member, is preparing for a national day of action in the form of a general national strike on 24 February 2021, in protest against the soaring levels of unemployment, government corruption and the perceived erosion of workers’ rights. 

This Management Brief provides some basic background to the issue and guidance to Management in dealing with the intended protest action.

Protest Action and the Labour Relations Act 

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) permits registered trade unions or federations such as SAFTU to undertake protected protest action to promote the social and economic interests of workers, provided that they observe the procedural requirements contained in Section 77 of the LRA.

It is important to note that whilst SAFTU’s application, dated 28 September 2020, is still in the process of being finalized, protection of the action on  24 February 2021 arises out of a Section 77 application brought by three trade unions affiliated to SAFTU (i.e. NUPSAW, ICTU and Salipswu).  This application was duly considered by NEDLAC, and the NEDLAC Section 77 Standing Committee has determined the notice to be compliant with the administrative requirements of the LRA.

As the three trade unions referred to above are affiliated to SAFTU, this opens the way for other SAFTU affiliated trade unions, for example NUMSA, to piggyback on the protected action.

Please note that once NEDLAC deems the notice of action as being compliant with the provisions of Section 77 of the LRA, every employee who is not engaged in an essential service has the right to take part in the protest action.  Consequently, all employees participating in any action on 24 February 2021 will be protected by the normal rules regarding protected strikes, namely: no work, no pay and no disciplinary action.

Management Guidelines on Possible Absenteeism on Wednesday, 24 February 2021 

SEIFSA recommends that Management adopt the following course of action in dealing with any stay-away from work on 24 February 2021:

  • Inform all workers that any absences related to the protest action will be treated on the following basis:
  • no work, no pay, and no disciplinary action;
  • a shift for leave pay and leave enhancement pay qualification purposes will be forfeited in respect of the day’s absence; and
  • any overtime worked during the course of the week will be paid at ordinary rates to make up for the lost ordinary working hours from Wednesday, 24 February 2021.

The Staff of the SEIFSA Industrial Relations and Legal Services Division are available on (011) 298-9400 to provide any further advice and/ or assistance to Management on the contents of this Management Brief.