Overcoming labour unrest God’s way

[notice] A fortnightly column by Johannesburg Business Editor, Patrick Kuwana. [/notice]

The last half of 2012 was rampant with labour unrest (especially in the mining sector) and we saw the same continue into 2013 as the agricultural sector followed suit. The fact of the matter is that unabated levels of labour unrest have the power to bring down businesses and effectively an entire national economy. So I would like to start the year by exploring the issue from a biblical worldview.

Simple Biblical principles
I believe most if not all labour issues in business would be resolved if we followed some ‘simple’ Biblical principles. For example Paul says in Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This one verse could revolutionise the labour market if it could be put into practice in every business. It would result in employers and business owners not only focusing their attention on making a financial profit at all cost which inevitably leads to workforce exploitation – low pay, bad working conditions, etc. Likewise it would stop workers (employees) from fighting for their demands through channels of violence and destruction as we have seen in most labour unrest situations in this country.

At the end to the day continued labour disputes do not benefit anyone in the long run – they erode employer / employee relationships which lead to continued low levels of productivity (South Africa unfortunately has one of the lowest productivity rates in the world) and hence low economic growth, which in turn means less jobs are created and the perpetual circle of poverty is fuelled. The cycle typically goes like this – employers (businesses) suffer because they become globally uncompetitive and lose profits, the employees suffer because they eventually lose their jobs as employers can’t afford to pay, and so it goes on. This is a cycle that the enemy is using right now to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ (John 10:10) from this nation.,

It’s not a University MBA/Doctorate based answer – it’s a Gospel answer
As much as our fallen humanistic and intellect driven minds would like to find a complicated University MBA/Doctorate based theory to solve this, the solution is yet so simple because the Master Human Resources consultant of all time Jesus, gave us the solution when He replied to the question about the greatest commandment by saying “The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. No other command is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31). We need to realise that the Greatest Commandment is not only relevant for our personal religious lives, but it is also the greatest foundation for business and economic success. When we truly love the Lord our God and love our neighbour we will solve the labour issues that we face.

Love means seeking the common good for all. For the employer it’s paying the employees a decent wage for their work. Indeed, the word of God outlines the fate of those who fail to ‘love their employees’ in James 5:1-5: Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.’.

Likewise for the employees it means giving their 100% effort in the work they do (increased labour productivity). God also gives the benefits and consequences of faithful service in Colossians 3:22-25: ‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching over you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward and that the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favourites’.

When we employ these ‘basic’ Biblical solutions to the labour issue we break the cycle of destruction and kick start the abundance cycle that the Son has come to give us. (John 10:10 – The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life).

Fruit of the spirit
In fact, if every believer carried the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 into their workplaces and businesses every day we would hardly experience labour issues in this country. Statistics tell us that the South African population is made up of 68% Christians. Just imagine workplaces where 68% of the business owners, management and workforce are displaying love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The light shining from these 68% would absolutely push back darkness and usher in the Kingdom. The sad reality though is that we as the 68% majority have failed to be the salt and the light (Matthew 5:13-16) and therefore what we see mostly manifesting in the business environment is the prevalence of darkness as listed in Galatians 5:19 – ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these’.

Arise and Shine
So will we has the body of Christ ‘arise and shine’ this year by doing (not just talking) the greatest commandment in our businesses and workplaces and release the fruit of the Spirit upon all our activities? This is how we will transform society and reflect the glory of the Father in a world that seems to be getting darker and darker and is desperate for some light of hope (Isaiah 60:1-3).

One Comment

  1. Your articles are inspiring, thank you so much