God's Word for today

Sunday, 22 August 2010


James has been at home from school since midday on Thursday, and is only going back on Tuesday this week as a result of the nationwide strike that is currently underway by teachers.  Now none of the teachers at James' school are on strike, but the school was closed due to threats of intimidation from striking teachers from other schools in the area.

One thing that freaks me out about this strike action is that those who are on strike are exercising their right to strike, but are not prepared to respect the rights of those who do not wish to join the strike action.  One colleague argued with me that the non-striking teachers will still benefit from any eventual settlement, so they should be compelled to join the strike, but I strongly disagree with this notion.  Then again, I have never been a member of a trade union, preferring instead to state my case on an individual basis with management.  In any event, once I entered the ranks of management myself, the whole idea of "across the board" increases became irrelevant.

Now it might seem strange for me to come across as seemingly anti-union when they are so part and parcel of our Wesleyan heritage.  For it was John Wesley himself who formed what became the precursor to the first trade unions in England, in response to the widespread exploitation of workers during the Industrial Revolution.  And I think that there is a place for unions - a "voice for the voiceless" in that while it may have been relatively easy for me as a graduate professional to approach management concerning one's employment benefits, a factory-floor worker would have not enjoyed the same degree of access.  But our unions have gone beyond this, and I see them as a bunch of fat cats inciting members to (often violent) strike action to try and prove a point by throwing their weight around within the tripartite alliance (ANC, COSATU, and the SA Communist Party), rather than truly representing the workers.  When employers apply the principle of "no work, no pay", I'm almost certain that full-time union officials don't go without!

So I'm feeling rather cynical about the strike at the moment, especially when one reads reports of pregnant women being turned away from hospitals whilst in labour (the health care sector has also embarked on strike action).  In the meantime, there are thousands of matric students less than two weeks away from their preliminary examinations, and teaching has ground to a complete halt.  Some students are even being intimidated when they form their own study groups on school premises.

And as a seminarian, I feel a bit helpless at the moment.  If I was a minister in a congregation, I would be rallying around those who are able to provide some form of tuition, and make space available on church premises (halls, etc.).  I would probably even be taking some of the classes myself (with a masters in financial management, I would be able to handle the accounting, business economics, and entrepreneurship classes).  If need be, I would even have a bash at teaching English.  Unfortunately, being at seminary, I don't have such authority or access to resources.  The thought of bunking classes for the next week and pulling into one of our local churches had crossed my mind, but I'm not sure that such course of action will go down too well.

Sigh ... one day I'll no longer be in seminary, and then I'll be able to do this kind of thing.  In the meantime, I just need to keep my nose to the grindstone...

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