War of the wages

2010-05-22 12:29

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) has been talking to all

parties involved in wage negotiations as strikes threaten to ­derail the

delivery of the World Cup.

LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan said: “It is not perfect timing

for the World Cup. I hope we won’t have strikes and that the ­negotiations will

be conducted in good faith.”

Jordaan’s comments came as the country faced the prospect of a wave

of strikes as ­employees seek above-inflation increases this wage negotiations

season to close the gap between the highest and lowest earners.

Eskom employees indicated their ­intention to go on strike from

this ­Wednesday as the transport strike at ­Transnet and the Passenger Rail

Agency of SA looked like entering a third week.

The transport strike has already reduced the inventories of

products such as phamaceuticals and car parts, while some World Cup merchandise

has moved slowly from ports.

Pradeep Maharaj, Transnet executive for human resources, said it

would take up to two months to clear the backlog at the ports if the strike were

to be resolved over the weekend and employees returned to work­ ­tomorrow.

Jordaan said: “I spoke to the National ­Union of Mineworkers (NUM)

on Thursday and I am going to speak to them again. I hope the situation does not

lead to a strike.”

He was hopeful the transport strike would be resolved by the

beginning of this week.

Jordaan’s optimism may be premature ­because the intended strike is

to resolve last year’s issues. The SA Transport and Allied ­Workers Union

rejected ­Transnet’s ­offer on Friday while the United Transport and Allied

Trade Union accepted it.

The wage negotiations for this year, in which the union is

demanding an 18% wage increase, are likely to start after ­resolution of the

current issues, which include housing ­allowances.

Public sector wage negotiations are ­expected to resume this


In the mining sector, companies that are members of the Chamber of

Mines are not expecting strikes because they signed two-year deals with their

workers last year.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said negotiations with De Beers and

Kumba Iron Ore were at the mediation stage at the ­Commission for Conciliation,

Mediation and Arbitration.

Seshoka said: “If there is a deadlock the workers could go on

strike in four weeks.”

According to him, workers at Impala ­Platinum were demanding a 20%

increase but negotiations had only started recently.

Colen Garrow, a Brait economist, said the Transnet strike would

have a negative ­impact on economic growth in the second quarter of this


“Any double-digit growth in wages

that is not accompanied by productivity is negative for interest rates. The

settlements will count against interest rates staying low,” he said.

Annabel Bishop, Investec’s chief ­economist, said the settlements

would push up the cost of doing business: “We have not yet calculated the impact

on the economy.”

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