We Demand - this is the standard punch line for all South African Unions. Whenever they go on strike, there is a demand made. And the follow on statement is usually, "We will negotiate, but will not return to work until our demands are met!".
So, where's the negotiation then? What's the point? If you don't get what you want, whats to negotiate? Eventually, it's a standard meaningless statement, made to appease / impress the union members, and has no reflection whatsoever on the actual situation, other than, they normally will not budge till they get what they want!
So where are we at right now? Well, we have over a million government employees on strike country wide. These include teachers, nursing staff, doctors, and then a whole host of those clowns who work in the various inefficient government offices like Home Affairs, Customs, etc.
Teachers - the downside to the strike it that it affects those kids at school who would now normally be prepping for their matric prelims (LIU). There is no way that the weaker students will cope without the assistance of their teachers at this late stage. Now there is talk that maybe the final exams will be rolled over to next year. That's fucking bright! Extra school fees for the parents, a bigger lead for the schools, and then a further waste of the rest of the year for all those kids who want to go to varsity! Duh? Where's the fucking intelligence in that?
Nurses and Doctors - Ok, so not only do they desert their posts in the hospitals, they also block off the entrances to the hospitals so that any sick person wanting to gain access cant! Those very sick patients are moved to private hospitals, where they are cared for at a massive cost to government. Women are forced to give birth in the street outside hospital gates due to not being allowed access!! Those staff members who want to work are intimidated and attacked. Volunteers are called for over radio stations, and they deliver a service better than ever seen in these institutions, but they to fall under the sword of intimidation. Finally, the SANDF Medical Corps. are called in, and under heavy armed guard, they take over the day to day running of hospitals! Does this mean that next time the SANDF GO ON STRIKE, WE CAN EXPECT THE NURSES AND DOCTORS TO RECIPROCATE AND GO AND DEFEND OUR BORDERS FOR A FEW WEEKS? I think not......
Government office - This is sad to say, but for most people, the fact that these civil functions are on strike goes mostly unnoticed. They do fuck all anyway, so being out of the office probably saves the country a lot of money in that they don't drink coffee, tea, milk, and don't get to steal any stationery and stuff for a while. Maybe a good thing then.
However, having said all of the above, I do understand the basic right to strike. I understand that in some instances many of these people are underpaid, and I understand that it's crazy for MP's to get 12-15% increases, as well as massive housing and car allowances, and then expect the workers to be happy with 7-8%. Those in power have created their own shit in this case, and it will come back to bite them time and time again. All the goodwill created around the World Cup, with regards the international perception of South Africa, will have been to no avail now that the scenes of the strikes, and associated bad news, gets aired.
Oh well, I work for a corporation that "outlawed / banned" union membership. We get 2-3% increases for the top 20% of the workforce, and the rest get fuck all. And even then tit's subjective. If your manager don't like your mugg, you get rated badly, and don't get the increase. Maybe it's time to get unionized in the IT industry too.