African workers lack labour leadership, says DOL
“Negotiations to settle labour disputes in 2011 took longer”, says a DOL Industrial Action statistical report, advising labour and state parties to remain focused on settling in good faith, in a short period, and with minimise cost to workers and the economy.
“A dispute over a 1% increase in wages, for example, should not drag longer”, says the SA Department of Labour (DOL).
The report records 67 work stoppages in 2011, with 2.8m working days lost, to 203 238 workers. However, 2010 was a record year for strikes, involving six times more days, and 1.2m employees, in a series of short strikes.
Winter and early spring, from June to September, is known as ‘strike season’, when nearly 90% of strikes occur. The 2010 winter season co-incided with the Soccer World Cup hosted in SA.
SA workers launch about 65 major strikes per year, according to five year Labour data. “Compared to other developing countries, it signals good negotiation skills among all parties in labour disputes.” The apparent contradiction in the report, when read together with its criticism of leadership and negotiation, implies that labour negotiations are problematic in most third world countries.
Wages increased by 8%
The median wage settlement level as reported by the Labour Research Service in 2011 was about 8.0%, above the level of inflation in South Africa. Organised business had warned that African labour costs have risen above competitive productivity levels, leading to increasing imports from more productive and more mechanised producers.
Community, social and personal services industries had the highest working days lost, at 1.4m days, about half of the total working days lost.
Few construction strikes
Electricity, gas, water supply and construction industries experienced industrial peace, as they each recorded only two work stoppages in 2011.
About R1b in wages was lost due to work stoppages in SA in 2011. Most strikes last six to 10 days. These were the strikes involving the mining and manufacturing companies.
Mining safety stoppages
Data from other sources indicate that mining work stoppages enforced by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) under section 54 ‘stop and fix’ notices, had become a major cause of production losses.
However, the stoppages rose to prominence at the onset of the global economic downturn, retrenchments and lower labour intake in mining.
Some mining operators have blamed health, safety and environmental incidents on work flow and behaviour disruption due to enforced safety stoppages, alleging that ‘startup factors’ could nullify the intended effects of DMR notices.
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