Soldiers could become loose canons

THE debate on whether SANDF members should have the right to join trade unions has been going on for months now.

THE debate on whether SANDF members should have the right to join trade unions has been going on for months now.

The government argues that while soldiers currently enjoy this right it should be reviewed and amendments made to remove that right. Their argument rests on state-security considerations. The competing view sees this as a violation of the Labour Relations Act.

One is tempted to support the soldiers but for different reasons. SANDF members are excluded from the act and cannot strike. So the legislation cannot be used to advance any argument.

The employer-employee relationship is governed by a separate legislative framework. Be that as it may, the Constitution, Section 17 and 23 of the Bill of Rights guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of association and the right to form and join a union.

While it appears to be the state's genuine desire to ensure national security is not at risk, its argument is premised on the fundamentally flawed assumption that unionisation amounts to industrial action.

Unions are not established for this purpose but are responsible for a variety of activities. These include ensuring participation of members in the decision-making structures of employers, representing employees during disciplinary action and negotiating favorable working conditions .

Soldiers should be allowed to participate on governance issues in the SANDF. If they take part in an unprotected strike, disciplinary action should be taken to address such misconduct. It is not in the interest of national security for them not to be unionised. Without such a structure they are likely to be disunited and do as they please.

Siphelele Zulu, Pretoria

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