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