Strikes cost ‘millions’ of working days

2012-08-08 12:35

Strikes across South Africa resulted in 2 806 656 working days being lost in the labour market last year, a labour department official has said.

Work stoppages last year were, however, dramatically down from the previous year, deputy director-general Les Kettledas said today at the release of the Annual Industrial Action Report for 2011.

“There were 20 674 737 working days lost in 2010,” Kettledas told reporters.

“The winter period, from June to September, still remains as what is generally known as the ‘strike season’ and many stoppages occurred... 87% of the working days were lost during this period.”

Working days lost are calculated using the number of workers taking part in a strike action or lockout, multiplied by the length of the stoppage.
For example, in a strike involving 2 000 workers lasting three days, 6 000 working days are lost.

Kettledas said the private sector had more stoppages than the public sector.

“This was mainly due to the public service strike that was averted with the signing of the wage agreement. Noticeable stoppages that were experienced last year (include the one by) truck drivers, which was marred by violence and intimidation.”

The longest recorded strike involved a company called Sam’s Tissue Products. It was at loggerheads with trade union Ceppwawu and lasted 67 days.

It began on September 15 last year and was resolved on January 9 this year.

About 4 898 working days were lost during the industrial action involving 79 workers.

Last year, approximately R1.07 billion in wages was lost due to workers’ participation in work stoppages, according to the report.

The previous year saw R407 082 302 lost in wages for the same reason.

The large disparity in wages lost between the two years was related to the salaries of the people on strike. Last year, more people earning higher wages went on strike.

According to the report the number of employers who locked out employees during strikes remained the same between 2010 and last year.

The 2011 report noted that due to rising costs of food, electricity and transport, workers demanded double-digit wage increases, above the country’s inflation rate.

The information was used by lawmakers as a measure of decent work and for an indication of work trends within the country. The business fraternity, particularly private investors, also made use of it.

Employers had a legal obligation to report industrial action, and the labour department has its own media monitoring programme.

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