Work and Employment > Taking Industrial Action > When Is Industrial Action in the Workplace not Permitted?
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When Is Industrial Action in the Workplace not Permitted?

Industrial action is not permitted when:

  • The employers and employees have entered into a collective agreement which prohibits strikes or lock-outs around the issue being disputed
  • The employers and employees have entered into an agreement which regulates the issue being disputed
  • The law or the collective agreement says that the issue being disputed should be resolved through arbitration or the labour court. For example, the lra says that unfair dismissals and unfair labour practices must be referred to arbitration or the labour court. Employees cannot strike over unfair dismissal or unfair labour practices. Strikes over retrenchments are legal if the correct consultation processes have been followed.
  • There has already been arbitration about the issue, and an arbitration decision was made which regulates the issue.
  • Employees are employed in an essential service or a maintenance service. An essential service is where the life, safety or health of another person will be endangered if work is interrupted to go on strike. A maintenance service is where machinery or the factory will be damaged if work is interrupted. In these cases, disputes must go to arbitration. Parliament and the South African Police Services are classified as essential services in the LRA. There is an Essential Services Commission which decides which other employees provide an essential or maintenance service, and so may not go on strike.
    Although employees in essential services may not go on strike, the LRA provides other ways for them to resolve disputes. In most cases, where the parties are unable to reach an agreement around their dispute, either party may refer the dispute to compulsory arbitration by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration or the relevant Bargaining Council.

In all other cases, employees have the right to strike, and every employer has the right to lock-out, provided they follow the correct procedures first. This includes the right to strike over wages and conditions of employment, and to strike in solidarity with other legally striking employees.

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