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By unknown | May 29, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I HAVE never understood why most South African workers who are on strike seem to be in a jovial mood when embarking on their protest action.

I HAVE never understood why most South African workers who are on strike seem to be in a jovial mood when embarking on their protest action.

If they are so unhappy about their working conditions and salaries why do they look so ecstatic?

And if they are protesting against low pay, why is the man or woman who looks well-fed always in front, jumping and singing so passionately? It is always the sister with a huge "reverse" (backside) and the brother who seem to spend more time at the shisanyama who are over-zealous.

Looking at the size of some of the protesters, I have often feared that they will either keel over and die of a heart attack or pound the tarmac until there are more potholes than we need.

It's a bad PR exercise. If you want public sympathy to shift from your unscrupulous fat cat employer to you the poor worker, then put the emaciated looking guy in the front then, we will all know how selfish your employer is.

As far as strikes go, we have had our fair bit and the pro-investor brigade always remind us of how counter-productive strikes are because of their high costs to the economy.

This, of course, is true, but it is easy for those of us who have never had to protest, risk arrest and forfeit our wages, to tell disgruntled workers how they should protest.

Everybody - workers and employers alike - has to give and take a little so that the country gets back on its feet.

It can't all be about the workers, and it most certainly can't all be about employers.

Perhaps there are instances when workers are blind to the bigger picture and not taking into account the reality of our current recession.

When it was confirmed that the dreaded R-word has hit our economy, the news cut like a knife. Economists, trade unionists, the government and workers alike were united in their shock and horror.

But former finance minister Trevor Manuel had warned a few months ago that "we are in the eye of the storm. What we don't know at the moment is what exactly will happen before this storm drops its intensity".

Well, now we know. The storm is relentless as it blasts our economy.

At this moment it would seem we are all on the same side. At least we should be.

A 6,45percent shrinkage in economic output is a bitter pill to swallow, especially since analysts had predicted not more than 2percent.

The fact that our economy slipped into its first recession in 17 years should take precedence over all else. When the economy shrinks, jobs are lost and the pool from which to collect taxes also decreases.

Nobody knows how long this torrent will last but what we are sure about is that the sun is not going to shine any time soon. At a time like this, is any job better than no job?

Are workers supposed to be grateful they are employed regardless of low pay? Who is looking after the employer who does not exploit his or her employees but is now battling to stay afloat?

Many companies have taken painful steps to curb wasteful expenditure. They have to because they can't go to Treasury with a begging bowl.

It would be most tragic if government departments, state institutions and government-funded entities do not come to the party.

We are in this together. No strikes at the slightest provocation and the fat cats must also go on a serious diet.


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