Understanding the limitations to the right to strike in essential and public services in the SADC region
The nature of the limitations to the right to strike in essential and public services in the nine sub-regional countries of Southern Africa – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe – is examined in this contribution. While all of these countries share common influences and face common challenges, there appears to be a vast disparity in the approaches taken to the right to strike in public and essential services in the region. A brief overview of the demographics and labour markets in the countries under discussion is sketched, the salient features of the ILO's approach to strike in essential and public services is highlighted, and a broad overview of the contrasting and disparate approaches to essential and public services in the region is provided. The focus is, however, on the legislative approach taken to essential service employees in South Africa. It is concluded that – with the exception of South Africa and Namibia – the limitations to the right to strike of public sector employees exceed those endorsed by international conventions, and the broad definition of essential services generally relied upon effectively results in an outright ban of public sector strikes in the sub-region.
Keywords: Right to strike; SADC region; essential services; public services