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Workplace Rebellions Can Wreak Havoc

Workplace Rebellions Can Wreak Havoc

3rd October 2016


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Most employers will experience some type of rebellion from their workforces at one time or another. Sometimes it is that very rebellion (possibly a strike) that helps bring the organisation’s life to an end. Fortunately, relatively few cases of rebellion reach such serious levels. However, even smaller workplace storms can result in costly damage including:

  • Discipline  and lost employment for employees
  • Damaged management-employee relationships
  • Trade unions being brought into the workplace
  • Reduced morale
  • A strained working atmosphere
  • Demotivation
  • Slowed production output
  • Lack of teamwork and co-operation
  • Poor work performance
  • Unhappy clients
  • Loss of clients and/or loss of orders
  • Retrenchments
  • Material wastage
  • Industrial sabotage
  • Increased accidents and injuries
  • Go slows
  • Outright refusal to obey instructions

There are two basic reasons why employers need to avoid or at least quickly resolve such rebellions:


Firstly, the above factors are likely to affect profitability.

Secondly, rebellions have the habit of ending up in the CCMA or bargaining council. Neither of these are good places for employer to go. Fighting disputes at such tribunals is time wasting, energy sapping, emotionally draining and financially costly. Employers that believe in preventing the losses that rebellion can bring make a habit of:

  • resolving grievances thoroughly and swiftly
  • Counselling employees who break the rules and warning them that repeats of broken rules will result in stronger disciplinary action
  • Holding fair disciplinary hearings in cases where warnings and counsellings have not worked or are inappropriate
  • Dismissing rebellious employees only where this is the only viable option under the specific circumstances.

However, employers must, before considering dismissal, ensure that they have not done anything unjust to provoke the rebellion. Otherwise the CCMA or bargaining council could reinstate all the dismissed rebels. In the case of Petersen vs Kost Engineering (Pty) Ltd) ( 2000, 9 BALR 1068) the employee was fired for refusing to work. His reason for this gross insubordination was that he was unhappy with his pay. The CCMA found in the employee’s favour due to mitigating circumstances, one of which was that he had misconducted himself due to the fact that he believed the employer was not paying him a high enough salary.

Had it been 50 employees that rebelled this employer would have been in extremely serious trouble. This could mean disaster for the employer especially if the rebels are all reinstated.

Written by lvan lsraelstam, Chief Executive of Labour Law Management Consulting.

To attend our 17 November 2016 case law update seminar on NEW CHANGES AND DANGERS IN LABOUR LAW (Part 2) please contact Ronni on or 0845217492.


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