Jhannesburg - More than 3.5 million working days were lost to strike action last year and this year’s losses might exceed this total, Jackie Kelly, a labour analyst at Andrew Levy & Associates, said yesterday in response to questions on the impact of the strike season.
The count of lost days has surpassed 2 million with more threats of industrial action.
“It is possible we could overtake the figures of 2012, given the possibility of more strikes in the mining and clothing industries. The majority of wage negotiations take place in the third quarter,” Kelly said.
A strike could cost the gold industry R349 million a day in revenue, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.
South Africa has been racked by labour turmoil for the past year, and the rand has fallen by 17 percent against the dollar this year, the worst performer of 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The currency weakened by 6.57c to be bid at R10.2595 a dollar at 5pm.
Inflation this year has ranged from 5.4 percent in January to 6.3 percent in July, breaching the 6 percent upper limit of the central bank target.
Strikes afoot include the stoppage initiated by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the construction industry, while technical staff belonging to the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) downed tools at an SAA unit yesterday, and a National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) strike in the motor industry entered its seventh day.
Uasa would consult its members for a mandate on whether to strike at gold mines, Franz Stehring, the union’s divisional manager, said yesterday. “We’ll know on Friday whether to strike in the gold sector.”
The SA Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors reported sporadic protests in the construction sector. It said: “In terms of respective positions, parties are far apart. We believe the union demands are unreasonable and unaffordable.”
The JSE’s seven-member construction and building materials index rose 1.31 percent to 43.17 points yesterday. It has declined 4.1 percent this year compared with a 10 percent gain in the all share index.
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said about 90 000 union members did not report for work yesterday after negotiations with employers reached an impasse. NUM wants a 13 percent wage increase for this year and 14 percent for 2014. The employers offered a 6 percent increase for 2013 and an inflation-linked hike for 2014.
Uasa and NUM were issued with a strike certificate by the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration last week after they declared a dispute and rejected a 5.5 percent wage offer.
Cosatu threw its weight behind NUM in its disputes in the construction and gold mining sectors, and with Eskom, echoing the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all”. It said in a statement that 140 000 super-exploited workers in the construction industry had embarked on strike action. “They are employed by companies represented by the SA Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors; other firms will be affected as workers down tools.”
NUM leadership was expecting to meet with the Chamber of Mines tomorrow where they would “try to unlock the dispute and push for a revision of the wage offer”, Piet Mathosa, the deputy president, said.
Solidarity, which has continued with the talks in the gold mining sector, expected employers to make a counter offer today, Gideon Du Plessis, the general secretary, said.
In addition, the union claimed that Lonmin had removed a clause from a pact with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) which left a gap for minority unions to regain their recognition.
Du Plessis said the clause provided for minority unions to get back their recognition if they went on a protected strike. Lonmin indicated in a dispute meeting on Friday that the clause was excluded because of a “technical error”.
Lonmin signed a recognition agreement in which it recognised Amcu as the majority union after merging bargaining forums for skilled and unskilled workers. Solidarity’s bargaining rights were revoked.
Numsa would decide today whether the strike in the motor manufacturing industry would be called off after its members in the regions met to discuss the improved offer of 10 percent made by the employers on Thursday, national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo said. The union rejected reports it had accepted the offer.
Vincent Masoga, a spokesman for Satawu, said union negotiators and SAA were meeting. The strike was well attended and effective.
Masoga said Satawu had been told that management at SAA Technical, in its contingency logistics plan, was allegedly using unauthorised technicians to work the flights.
This transgression would be reported to the Civil Aviation Authority. - Business Report