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Oliphant urges fix of bargaining structure

Aug 09 2014 11:12

Johannesburg - South Africa needs to find a solution for its seemingly failing bargaining structure, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Friday.

In a speech prepared for delivery at the launch of a 2013 Industrial Action Report, Oliphant highlighted the need for government, unions and business to play a more important role in the labour sector.

Stability in the labour force and fair labour practices would attract investors and inspire economic growth in the long run, she said.

The report was based on an analysis of strike action in the country in 2013.

According to the report, the North West and Gauteng were the most affected provinces in regard to wages lost due to strikes.

The number of strikes had increased in 2013 to 114 from 99 in 2012, she said.

Out of 114 strikes, only 42% were protected compared to 54.4% in the 99 strikes in 2012.

"The resultant effect was that a total of R6.7bn in wages was lost due to the participation of workers in strikes as compared to the R6.6bn in 2012."

Although the number of strikes had increased, she said the number of working days lost had decreased by 44.2%.

She said South Africa had on average recorded the highest annual average of 292.6 working days lost per 1 000 workers during 2005 and 2009.

It was highest as compared to other countries internationally over the same period.

Wages were still the main reason for the strike action, she said.

"In other words, workers are still seeking more money to curb their socio-economic needs.

"It is shown that the cost of living keeps going up because of multiple factors from the domestic to the international market."

She said possibilities of increasing minimum wages to address poverty and inequality, as well as the expansion of provision for retirement savings for low-income workers, would be a sharp focus in the future.

The number of work stoppages that were between 11 and 20 days increased in 2013 to 40.8% from 22.3% in 2012. "However, in the mining industry, union rivalries between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) continued to stretch the wage negotiations and also fuel the strikes and stall productions," she said.

She said in all cases, the wage agreements reached were below the initial demand, which was followed by other negative employment trends such as job losses in the mining sector in 2013.

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