Keeping control when a strike erupts

Parts of Johannesburg were plunged into darkness in June when Eskom workers damaged company property during a wage strike – an act that Nomvula Mokonyane, South Africa’s Communications Minister, dubbed “economic sabotage”. However, as South Africa continues to experience economic, political and social pressures, strikes will probably become increasingly dangerous and costly across all sectors.

Jacki Condon, MD of Apache Security Services, argues that Eskom and other organisations facing strike action must be better prepared and ensure the safety of their employees and property. She says: “During labour unrest, real, strategic protection must be established to prevent vandalism, physical assault, property invasion and intimidation.”

It is essential that strike control teams consist of qualified experts, such as operatives with expertise in hostile environment recording. Close protection operatives (CPOs) assigned to strike action management must have the highest level of experience in conflict. These CPOs must have the ability to focus on protecting staff, service providers, property and the business reputation, even when surrounded by chaos.

“Counterstrike protection services must include crowd-control teams. Specialist employee protection is required, especially to protect those who choose not to participate in the strike. When the organisation is at loggerheads with striking staff, executives often become the target of the strikers’ rage. For this reason, executive protection is essential,” Condon says.

She adds that video or drone footage can also assist in recording important evidence if employees damage property. This evidence can prove important in a criminal case. Condon notes: “It is essential that hostile situations are recorded. In the heat of the moment, witnesses lose perspective and the specific details are often forgotten amid the adrenaline and panic. Video recordings will capture those forgotten details.”

She concludes: “Perimeter protection must be secured timeously. The strategy must include hostile-environment risk management, and respondents must be qualified to administer immediate emergency care if it becomes necessary. CPOs must be prepared to testify or present evidence in hearings after the fact. Lastly, undercover infiltration is crucial to getting the inside scoop, and preventing disasters before they occur.”

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