An accord setting new rules for strikes was signed alongside the National Minimum Wage deal this week, in essence trying to bar another event like Marikana.

On the one hand, it addresses violence – the accord bans the use of live ammunition by the public order policing unit and security companies, and also commits them to “refrain from acting in a manner that escalates the conflict”.

On the other hand, it also targets the alleged undemocratic nature of large strikes, where employers often claim most workers just want to come to work.

Pending amendments to the Labour Relations Act will enforce secret strike ballots as well as “advisory arbitration” when strikes are judged to have got out of hand.

The secret ballot amendment will require unions to hold an anonymous vote of members before embarking on a strike. The registrar of labour will have to oversee these ballots.

The arbitration clause is meant to allow the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to intervene in three distinct situations – it can be used if there is violence or a threat of violence, and it can be used when a strike has gone on for a long time and has become “dysfunctional” in the sense that the workers and employers are not actually negotiating any more.

The third situation is more controversial: where a strike causes a “national crisis”.

The CCMA will come up with an impartial deal for the employer and workers to consider.