JOHANNESBURG - The South African Chamber of Business and Industry (Sacci) said Wednesday’s Constitutional Court decision to hold unions financially responsible for damage caused during their protests restores the balance between the rights of workers and the rights of employers.
On Wednesday, judges announced that march organisers who could foresee violence during their protests would have to pay-up if property is damaged.
Sacci CEO Neren Rau said property belonging to firms had previously been damaged during violent strikes.
“The police were slow to respond to protect the property and premises of the businesses.
“Those businesses have the same rights as striking workers.”
Independent labour analyst Gavin Brown said it has taken a long time to get a ruling on this issue.
“It addresses a uniquely South African phenomenon which is to trach the streets everytime there’s a strike.
“And if it puts an end to that then the ruling should be welcome," said Brown.
But unions claim it is impossible to prove who's responsible for violence during protests and that this ruling is a limitation on the right to strike.
Congress of South Africna Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi raised concerns about the judgment.
Vavi said he was worried about the implications of the ruling.
“Sometimes it is possible that people that are not associated with the union are planted as ‘agent provocateurs’. They can just join the march with the view of causing problems.”
On Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) claimed the streets of South Africa would be safer after the Constitutional Court ruling.
The DA’s Ian Ollis said the decision would force union leaders to behave more responsibly.
“The war talk will have to be toned down because you can’t fight people and then claim no responsibility after the event.”
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) responded by saying it would, however, not put an end to its marches.
Satawu General Secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said this ruling was just wrong.
“Some hooligans were not necessary members of Satawu. They went into the march because they know that in the event that they do something in the gathering, they will be liable.”
(Edited by Clare Matthes)