A lockout can be seen as an employer’s leverage during a strike.
A lockout is the employers right to exclude striking employees from the workplace. This serves to provide the employees with a choice, they can either continue on and survive without any wages for the duration of the strike or they could give in to the employer’s final offer.
If for example wage negotiations deadlock and the employees are on strike the institution of a lockout by the employer takes the advantage away from the employees as to decide themselves when to resume work as work will be resumed when the strike is over and an agreement has been reached. This prevents striking employees from working on and off during the duration of the strike.
As the Labour Relations Act gives the employees the right to strike it also gives the employer the recourse to lock out.
The first requirement of a lock out is the exclusion of some or all the employees from the workplace, the employees are thus forced to physically remain outside the workplace. This exclusion must be for the purpose of excluding strikers from the workplace until they accept the employer’s offer or abandon their strike. This dispute must be one of mutual interest.
There are requirements for a legal lockout in response to a strike. Notice of such lock out must also be given. These requirements are almost identical to those of a strike, however if the strike is unprotected these procedural requirements need not be followed.
Employers who follow all the procedures as mentioned in the Labour Relations Act are indemnified against any civil proceedings (interdicts) arising from the lockout.
The employer does not have to pay wages to locked out employees.
The employer can during the duration of the strike replace locked out employees with temporary labours to continue productivity. If the employees then abandon their strike action, the right to use replacement labour still lies with the employer.
The employer can also try and persuade non striking employees to perform the duties of those striking employees who have been locked out, however if they refuse to do so no disciplinary action may be taken against them.
It is good to take note of the above mentioned occurrence during strikes and to know that the employer too has recourse against striking employees and need not just wait and incur large production damage for the duration of the strike.
Article by: Carlene van der Lith
CEO Dispute Resolution Official – Kimberley