Govt has lost control of labour - DA

Sep 18 2013 18:22
Cape Town - The government is not doing enough to "facilitate efficient labour bargaining practices, prevent strikes, and save jobs", according to the Democratic Alliance (DA).

This was in reaction to the latest Industrial Action Report, released on Wednesday, which showed the number of strikes in South Africa hit a five-year high during the 2012 calender year.

Strikes over the period involved 241 391 workers, cost the economy 3.3 million working days, and resulted in workers losing R6.6bn in wages.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, DA MP Sej Motau said the report confirmed that government had "all but lost control" of labour in South Africa.

"Government’s inability to deal with union rivalry, in particular, was highlighted by the department of labour's chief director of industrial relations, Thembinkosi Mkhalipi, where he is quoted in the report as saying 'unions are afraid to lose members...[regarding the] Marikana incident ... it was an issue of competition'," said Motau.

99 strikes

A total of 99 strikes were recorded in 2012, close to half of them unprotected or illegal strikes, and many of them characterised by violence, labour director general Nkosinathi Nhleko told journalists in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The trend was continuing into this year.

"From what we can all see, there is a continuation of the trend we experienced in 2012," Nhleko said.

However, no figures were yet available for the current calendar year.

Asked why so many strikes involved violence, he suggested this had to do with leadership.

"The issue of how parties in the dispute have got to conduct themselves...hinges largely around the issue of exercise of leadership.

"And when we cite leadership as a factor...it is also informed by the mere fact that when these things begin to happen, it is something that wants to suggest that at a level of exercise of leadership, there is something that has not been handled properly and... accordingly."

"Worrying point"

This, Nhleko said, was a "worrying point".

He said "social partners" needed to tackle the issue of how to prevent violence during strikes.

According to the report, 99 "strike incidents" were recorded in 2012, compared to 67 in 2011, 74 in 2010, 51 in 2009 and 57 in 2008.

"South Africa experienced violent, bloody and deadly industrial actions in the mining, transport and agricultural industries.... Out of 99 strikes processed within the department, 45 strikes were unprotected."

The document finds most of the working days lost by industry were in the mining sector (82.4%).

"Wages, bonuses and other compensation issues still remain the main reasons for work stoppages during 2012."

Further, most workers involved in last year's labour unrest were members of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Gauteng grounds to a halt

Among the provinces, Gauteng - South Africa's economic heartland - had the most work stoppages.

"Gauteng experienced 42 strikes in 2012, up from 33 in 2011, an increase of 27.3%."

According to the report, workers still had confidence in the Labour Relations Act, the legislation governing bargaining processes and associated legislation, "[but] most of them believe that the cost of living is too high".

The government needs to take control of the situation and solidify practice and protocol with regard to wage negotiations before the mining sector becomes unattractive to investors, the report concluded.

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da  |  nkosinathi nhleko  |  mining  |  jobs  |  labour unrest


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