Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT: LOCAL -

The death of 34 minework­ers in the Marikana disas­ter could show South Africa’s labour sec­tor, in­clud­ing the Govern­ment, how to re­duce the ex­plo­sive sit­u­a­tion sur­round­ing strikes. Se­ri­ous steps must be taken. SA lost more than R6bn in mone­tary terms last year due to strikes.

This is ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Labour’s re­cent an­nual re­port on labour un­rest last year.

While the work­ers are in­creas­ingly blam­ing the bosses for their poor liv­ing con­di­tions, SA’s min­ing in­dus­try could be­come ‘un­in­vestable’ if the Govern­ment does not in­ter­vene soon and put for­ward f i xed plans for wage ne­go­ti­a­tions, the depart­ment warned.

The re­port paints a som­bre pic­ture of last year’s labour un­rest in SA and the paralysing ef­fects it had on the coun­try’s econ­omy. Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment’s cal­cu­la­tions, the econ­omy lost no less than R6 666 103 906 in wages last year. The im­pact of strikes on the econ­omy is mea­sured in terms of lost wages. Th­ese fig­ures are sub­mit­ted to the depart­ment by em­ploy­ers.

This is a sub­stan­tial in­crease over the R1.07bn of 2011, and the f ig­ure has in­creased sharply since 2008.

There were 99 strikes re­ported last year,

Strikes statis­tics 2012 com­pared with 67 in 2011, 74 in 2010, 51 in 2009 and 57 in 2008. Strik­ing work­ers num­bered 203 138 in 2011; last year the fig­ure climbed to 241 391.

One of the rea­sons for the in­creas­ing num­ber of strikes, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, is that work­ers are “be­gin­ning to un­der­stand” that many of them live in ab­ject poverty, while the com­pa­nies they work for are thriv­ing and de­clare con­stantly ris­ing prof­its.

“They are be­com­ing aware of the huge gap be­tween the top earn­ers and the rest of the staff and the gen­er­ous bonuses awarded to ex­ec­u­tives and man­age­ment teams. There is an ur­gent need for more so­cial struc­tures and col­lec­tive ac­tion to tackle the is­sues that SA is fac­ing. En­ter­prises and the labour in­dus­try run­ning cam­paigns for hu­man rights and so­cial con­di­tions will prob­a­bly im­prove em­ploy­ees’ morale and pro­duc­tiv­ity, and also bring sta­bil­ity to the labour mar­ket,” the re­port says.

It was found that most strikes (81.6%) were wage-re­lated and that em­ploy­ees want bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions.

The depart­ment said em­ploy­ers must do more to un­der­stand what it’s like to be an em­ployee as far as wages and liv­ing con­di­tions are con­cerned.

The re­port places great em­pha­sis on what em­ploy­ers, whether pub­lic or pri­vate com­pa­nies, must do about the in­crease in the num­ber of strikes.

One of the pro­pos­als is that the wage

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