Strikes embarrass SA

2010-06-17 07:41

Johannesburg - One of the greatest fears for the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting South Africa for the 2010 Fifa World Cup was the country's high crime rate, but they probably should have been almost as worried about its labour unions.

Labour groups have threatened to cut the power, freeze transport, abandon security posts and tie up immigration at airports during the World Cup if their demands for better wages and working conditions were not met.

Few analysts expect the groups, led by trade federation Cosatu, to make good on all their threats or for the government to allow a stoppage in critical work that would bring a grinding halt to the tournament, the first on African soil.

But the unrest coming at a time supposed to be a display of national unity has stoked fears among investors about labour actions hurting balance sheets, and served as reminder of the difficulty of doing business in Africa's largest economy because of its costly and inflexible job market.

"It is an embarrassment for the South African government for not being able to fulfil its promises to Fifa to guarantee a strike-free tournament," said Mark Schroeder, a US-based senior analyst at Stratfor, a global intelligence company.

"More significantly than that, it is an embarrassment to a government that is striving to make the country more attractive to foreign investment," he said.

More than a dozen unions affiliated with Cosatu have threatened to strike during the Cup, pressing for wage raises well above the inflation rate.

"We refuse to be blackmailed by the employer because of the World Cup 2010 and we shall fight until our demands are met," Mungwena Maluleke, the negotiator representing Cosatu unions, has said in a statement.

"Cosatu and its member unions are doing what comes naturally and that is using every advantage for the best possible deal for themselves and their members," said Nic Borain, an independent South Africa political analyst.

A strike at logistics group Transnet a few weeks ago illustrated how the World Cup offers workers leverage. The firm caved in and agreed to a higher pay increase to end a three-week stand-off which disrupted railways and ports.

Stadium security workers and a small group of bus drivers shuttling fans to and from the venues have walked off the job during the tournament.

Backlash risk

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets late on Sunday to chase hundreds of protesting stadium stewards out of a World Cup venue in Durban.

There was another clash on Tuesday in Durban between riot police and stadium stewards. Police said they were taking over security at Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth stadiums because of the dispute.

The unions see the Cup as an unprecedented opportunity to press for high wages and are banking that complaints of unpatriotic behaviour would be overshadowed by their esteemed image of helping bring down apartheid.

Union Satawu, the biggest representing security workers, on Wednesday said it had asked the labour department to investigate abuse of workers at stadiums and officials have agreed to do so.

"Fifa and [organisers] are fully responsible for the fiasco that is unfolding with regard to the employment of security workers for the World Cup," it said in statement.

But the unions risk a backlash for undermining the Soccer World Cup party from a middle class in the Rainbow Nation that has grown more racially diverse, and among the masses of jobless who see the groups as not doing enough to help reduce what is the highest unemployment rate in a Group of 20 leading global economies.

"Cosatu for a long time has not bothered to win the middle ground in its public strikes," Borain said.

- Reuters

  • Dyl - 2010-06-17 07:54

    banana any one for a banana...?

  • Pangea - 2010-06-17 08:01

    So? What you complaining about, remember striking for everything under the sun is something the ANC created. What is the old saying "be careful the monster you create as it might turn on you".

  • Jim - 2010-06-17 08:10

    We can forget about another world cup OR such like global event with this blackmail type union attitude.

  • slg - 2010-06-17 08:22

    Mungwena Maluleke you're being very silly and immature. While you're fighting for your demands to be met, you're costing your members and the many unemployed South Africans thousands of jobs. You're harming our country. There are better, more mature ways of doing this.

  • Andre - 2010-06-17 08:22

    When the SWC was announced, Cosatu already started making noises about strikes. While we all have sympathy with underpaid workers and equally want to vilify those who exploit our people, I think it is extremely unpatriotic to hold the country and it's visitors to ransom. I believe all the cultures in SA share the tradition of treating our visitors with respect and receiving them with open arms. How pathetic then to mistreat foreign SWC visitors, who have no power to influence our lives other than by staying away in future. Unfortunately there is a habit in our country (especially from Cosatu) to "cut our noses to spite our face". If tourism can grow (which is probably the only benefit the SWC can bring)then the workers will benefit. But we go and abuse their friendship and trust. Shame on you and your short-sighted selfish behaviour. I think it borders on treason. Cosatu has never done anything for the benefit of the country, just their own interests.

  • HONKY - 2010-06-17 08:23

    If my business pertners treated me the way Cosatu treats the ANC I would be out of business. Its time the govt freed up the job market and banned any form of strike action / blackmail. Change the rules and get many more employed. In SA if you employ a local you practically get married again. This has to change !!!!

  • Peter - 2010-06-17 08:30

    That is what the ANC taught our people to do, STRIKE. They only do as instructed. Why is that that South African citizens have so little value to the ANC government. They do not protect us from strikes, crime and murder but when it is the world cup then all of the sudden they can address all the issue they never bother to address.

  • Pensioner - 2010-06-17 08:36

    I normally do not support strike action but the Bosses at ESKOM and in Government (amongst many others) are walking away with fat paychecks and bonuses while many workers are living below the bread-line. So, in this case, all I can say is VIVA COSATU!

  • gpwengineer - 2010-06-17 08:47

    I say strike... We were sold out to FIFA by of LOC. FIFA is going around terrorising anyone wearing the wrong color or logo. Then FIFA takes their profits and pays no tax. In South Africa, companies are suffering. Banks are refusing loans to companies. SARS is squeezing everyone for more tax. And then SARS lets them off the hook with no tax. The government has sold out its people for FIFA. So why should I pay my 28% company tax and 40% individual tax? STRIKE!

  • Nicole - 2010-06-17 08:49

    This just once again shows that Cosatu needs to go. They really are embarrasing!

  • Vaalseun - 2010-06-17 08:50

    Feel it, it is here!

  • PETERE - 2010-06-17 08:57

    Unions are supposed to be there to look after their members best interests. Sure, the world cup is a great opportunity to twist their employers arms into better deals but it is a short sighted view. Missed investment because of the publicity will see reduced opportunities to get growth leading to more jobs, and better working conditions. Its rather like being given some beans and eating them instead of planting them: short term satisfaction, long term loss. Come on Cosatu, do your job and look after your members BEST interests!

  • BT - 2010-06-17 08:59

    What these unions don't realise is that their shortsightedness of using the World Cup as a "bargaining tool", to get better wages, will only result in long term loss to the country, the economy, the job market, and yes, the wages. This typical "African mindset", will only result in loss of Investment and further uncompetitivness.Everybody, except the "fat cats" at the top, will be the losers.

  • Rubbish - 2010-06-17 09:00

    Its stuff like this that breads racism. FIRE THEM ALL !

  • Anon - 2010-06-17 09:03

    Considering how many unemployed people we have who would love a job, how about we fire all these lazy twits and hire some people who will appreciate having a job in the first place. They earn more money than I do but you don't see me striking about it.

  • mark - 2010-06-17 09:05

    It was widely predicted that the bad corrupt currents running under this goverment would rear its ugly head and as Madiba fades away you will see more and more of the corrupt middle class taking control. The crime is still there I witnessed myself 4 bag snatchings , muggings after the France /Uruguay match in Cape town nothing reported nothing said or done There is clamp down on anything not spin or suiting the goverment . I will eb amazed if this comment is printed. Not many pags on here one can comment about, thank heavens for the real time facebooka nd twitter as the truth is getting out. Does sound old Russia but this is where we heading to in South africa if kept under thsi regime.

  • Matt Nel - 2010-06-17 09:06

    Truely disgusting. The government should of put a compelete ban to strikes for this period

  • Malcolmt - 2010-06-17 09:06

    Why be embarressed, this is the REAL South Africa.

  • Giuseppe V - 2010-06-17 09:12

    I came to South Africa to see my team in the World Cup. I have thought a lot about investing in a little companies since I have been here because of the exchange rate, i enter the locale sites. But see these South Africans go on strike during the World Cup has made up my mind for me. If they behave this way when they supposed to behaving then how much do they act in normal times? I do not know many about South Africa but i can see workers have no pride in the country. So no thank you.

  • susan - 2010-06-17 09:15

    You only reap what you sow...

  • Clive - 2010-06-17 09:17

    Don't tell me, I've already guessed: The security contract was given to a BEE firm with strong ANC connections, and probably with no track record. They therefore figured they could flout the labour laws and get away with it - which they probably will (and make a kiliing at the same time). Once again the country is embarrassed because politics and patronage are put ahead of good business sense. The silence of Manyi and his ilk is deafening.

  • annie - 2010-06-17 09:22

    Now that SA are virtually out of the competition - these demands & strike actions are going to intensify. This is very worrying.

  • Alibaba - 2010-06-17 09:22

    Cosatu/ANC/ANCYL is a bunch of blood suckers that will stop at nothing to line their own pockets - they are not and have never been interested in uplifting the poor masses of South Africa. Change will only come with a change of government, and my chances of getting pregnant are better than that happening - greetings...

  • Brett - 2010-06-17 09:31

    Interesting article, but very badly written. Come on guys, you're a news site; typos and grammatical mistakes are unacceptable.

  • Tappit - 2010-06-17 09:36

    The sooner labour laws of this country are rewritten the better. As long as what labour is protected at a cost to capital, will there be no progress. "Stocks will run down untill the wharehouses are empty" The scale is way out of balance and in favour of labour. Politicians see this and take advantage, for thenselves of course!!

  • michael - 2010-06-17 09:37

    The cynical side of me can't help thinking that if this was 'whiteys' doing the complainig the first person to stand and and shout "You unpatriotic white people" would be Messrs Vavi et cie!!! The unions are racists - but well done to them for standing up against corruption.

  • Siener - 2010-06-17 09:46

    I told you so. Amazing how the ANC who used to instigate these sort of strikes are now on the receiving end, what you reap you shall sow. This is Africa!!

  • Siener - 2010-06-17 09:47

    What you sow you shall reap

  • Snake - 2010-06-17 09:48

    That's what you get when you deal with a bunch of Commies.

  • Charles Jones - 2010-06-17 10:12

    I am sitting here in Dunedin and have just watched the South African Police clashing with rioters outside the Durban soccer stadium ....Moses something stadium , its awful. Is South Africa really as violent and lawless as what we see on TV or is South Africa being knocked by the media unfairly. We only hear bad news from South Africa , every day its bad news . No other country in the wolrd gets such bad press

  • Andre - 2010-06-17 10:33

    Grant them an increase and recover the monies after the World Cup – there should be a legal premise that allows for that. Probably similar to a statement made under duress.

  • Mukesh - 2010-06-17 10:39

    The fish rots from the head. Starts from JZ and all the way down. Our mindset needs to change from handouts to working collectively as a nation. If one looks to the east we see the mentality of the people. In and ideal situation the politicians needs to be trusted in making the right decisions for the nation; only then will we, the workers, concentrate on delivering for the nation (instead of looking at making a quick busk for myself).

  • Warren - 2010-06-17 10:56

    Typical, typical, typical we as a country are trying to against all odds look good for the world, at a time when the whole world is watching us and what happens a strike. I bet the unions planned this all along thinking that the government will just pay more to shut them up, i say don't. They have embarrassed us as a nation, they have made their bed.

  • 2012 - 2010-06-17 11:11

    If you were all living below the breadline, I'm sure you would use the levergae afforded by the worldcup to get what you require to stay alive. If businesses had addressed these issues 20 years ago, we would not have a problem now. The world cup is in Africa for a month, poverty is going to be here a hell of a lot longer. Ubuntu to the nation.

  • Batman - 2010-06-17 11:18

    Guess who owns the security companies, none other than our esteemed 'minista' of Communications...go figure.

  • Vicky - 2010-06-17 11:19


  • mike - 2010-06-17 11:33

    @ editor what happened to my Terry Payne quote. I thought it summed up the situation rather well

  • Favored - 2010-06-17 11:36

    If Employers should have done the right thing then there wont be a need for Strikes in the first place. Take care of Employees then employees will take care of Employer. It must be a win-win situation. Government must JUST stop doing what they know best...BLAMING and for once.Government and/or Employers should have done the right thing at the first place, you cant promise and not deliver. LET THE STRIKES GO ON

  • Charles Parker - 2010-06-17 11:52

    I am sure the RSA had got to look atb ways of separating fiction from reality. The RSA Unions, especially COSATU, has got to do some homework or introspection to see whether the directyion they are taking is for the best of country first rather than otherwise. However, in short, they are embarrassing to say the least! What an alliance partner the ANC has!?

  • steveo - 2010-06-17 12:14

    you should not be alowed to strike because you can't have something, if you earned it then you deserve it otherwise stop moaning, get it in writing then there is no dispute, striking is not very mature and just goes to show how stupid the majority is, we are finally one nation and i see its every man for himself instead of help thy neighbour, time to wake up and look into the future and what could be not what was, our for fathers were responsible for apartheid us young ones had nothing to do with it, our kids need to come up on a fresh slate, screw history it should not even be a subject at school, who cares about the past, you can't go forward when looking back. come on people lets wake up look forward and make our country prosper for our children!

  • Proudly SA - 2010-06-17 12:17

    So no one has seen the ever continuous BA strikes fairly recently. To all you haters. whatever! And I'm white by the way to all the idiots out there

  • DARK CLOUD - 2010-06-17 12:19

    just see the website below to see what COSATU is hiding from workers:

  • Hardass - 2010-06-17 12:21

    Every person striking over the WC period should be fired and black listed never to work in SA again. Bloody agents!

  • Rolo - 2010-06-17 12:21

    Seek and destroy are the motto's of cosatu and anc. This is the only time they are team players.

  • rodolfo hernandez - 2010-06-17 12:22


  • Pieter - 2010-06-17 12:30

    Arrest everybody for obstructing an International Event, I was at the Game in Cape town on Monday night when the security went on strike, The Police took over and it was a great success, I say fire everybody that is using this awesome event as leverage.

  • ramonvega - 2010-06-17 12:45

    The problem lies with management as well. They need to do right by their employees and and be responsive to their needs. How can management pay itself %14 increases while only offering %7 to workers as what happened with Transnet?! Some people have gotten so tall they forget whose shoulders they are standing on. As long as management refuses to do the right thing workers should be allowed to stand up for themselves..

  • Umm.... - 2010-06-17 12:51

    @ PROUDLY SA. So what is your point??

  • @proudly SA - 2010-06-17 13:06

    You up-side-down top deck...

  • Joe - 2010-06-17 13:09

    Whatever you give the commies, it'll NEVER be enough. I'm so glad the ANC is getting some of their own medicine. What goes around, comes around. And the ANC is a HUGE embarrassment to South Africa. They're a true Mickey Mouse government.

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