2012 saw the bloodiest and most stretched out labour actions in many years in SA. If protected it would have been more acceptable but the unprotected and illegal nature of the 2012 strike actions made it even worse – with no respect for labour laws in SA. It was specifically the mining industry and Western Cape seasonal farm workers that were the culprits.
What was significant of the 2012 strikes in the mining sectors was the move away from the traditional stronghold labour union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to a rival and non COSATU affiliated union, AMCU. Being on the background most of the time in 2012 AMCU left the talking and organizing to the Democratic Socialist Movement – an anti ANC movement with strong socialist ties and links to a London based organisation.
The total value of production lost due to strikes and stoppages in the mining industry in 2012 reached R15.3 billion ($1.67 billion), Mining Weekly.com reported.
The outlook for 2013 does not look good an kicked off on a negative note – NUM and AMCU rivalry continued, forcing certain mines to lose production due to illegal protest action, AMCU initially refused to assign an agreement with government, mines and NUM but eventually succeeded to do so, construction workers at the MEDUPI power plant construction area have been striking since mid January 2013 halting construction and delaying the finalisation of the project scheduled for finishing year end and in another devastating strike where employees and a union are fighting for union recognition has caused PRASA (the rail agency) R70 milj in damage to infrastructure. Nursing students in Gauteng went on strike, South African medical students in Cuba strike, a private security company in Mpumalanga strike, Dairy belle employees were on a stretched out strike in NW province, striking employees on three mines of Exxaro Coal, SAA employees strike for union organisational rights, Post Office workers in Gauteng and any more are on strike– all in the first three months of 2013.
The mood of labour is definitely not supporting economic growth, let alone building the image of SA abroad. One can expect that the 2012 trend of illegal strikes or initial illegal work stoppages will continue especially in the mining industry where wages negotiations are scheduled for this year – grievances will be addressed firstly through illegal work stoppages and then followed by dialogue. It can further be expected that AMCU would continue with a drive to take over membership from the NUM on mines and on various fronts in SA. AMCU earned themselves the tag of a “striking” rather than negotiating union.
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