Strike activity measured in number of labour disputes, working by plj11999

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									Chapter Thre e
Strike activity measured in number of labour
disputes, working days lost and time–loss ratio,
2004-2008
For the past five years, there has been a perception of a South African economy plagued
by labour disputes. In the second calendar quarter of 2008, there was a media report that
unions were warning of tough wage talks since they had to ensure that wage demands fully
compensated workers for the drop in their real standard of living. It was further reported
that families had been battered by a “tsunami” of price increases (Business Day, April 9,
2008). In South Africa, as in the whole world prices of bread, maize meal, rice, milk, and
transport went up. The year-on-year rise in the consumer price index (excluding interest on
mortgage bonds), or CPIX inflation, accelerated to 9.4% in February 2008, mainly due to
escalating food and fuel prices. It was anticipated that wage negotiations were expected to
be protracted in 2008, with all parties haggling around the real level of inflation. Indeed
negotiations were tough but at the end agreements were reached without resorting to
strikes. This was the case with the following agreements to mention a few:

(a) The South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union reached agreement on wages in
six out of the nine sub-sectors in July 2008. The union reached settlement in the woven
cotton; carpets; woven and crotchet; non-woven; home textiles and wool and mohair
sectors. For the remaining three national sub-sectors, negotiations were almost completed
in the blanket sub-sector in July 2008, while some issues remained unresolved for some
operations in the worsted textile sub-sector. The total labour cost increase settlements for
the six sub-sectors where settlements had been reached ranged from 8.0% to 11.0%, with
three sub-sectors settling above 10.0%, two settling between 9.0% and 10.0%, and one
settling at 8.0%. SACTWU was of the view that the settlements reflected a fair outcome,
given the current serious difficulties experienced by the industry.

(b) The National Union of Mineworkers reached a 12.0% wage agreement with De Beers on
24 July 2008. The agreement was not in line with the initial determination by the union
that they would embark on industrial action until they got what they wanted, a 13.5%. The
NUM reported that the 12.0% came as an attempt to get a neutral agreement and they
accepted it in the interest of progress. De Beers said that they shifted from 11.0% to
12.0% since they had to take note of the current economic situation where the price of
basic needs such as food and fuel had gone up. A wage increase settlement agreement was
signed with all trade unions (including NUMSA) and SEIFSA at a meeting of the Bargaining
Council on Wednesday, 25 June 2008. This followed on from a series of discussions with
trade unions, where the impact of inflation on the previously agreed level of wage increases
was discussed. The new agreement provided for the implementation of a uniform 10.4%
wage increase for all scheduled workers (irrespective of job grade) and the extension of the
current main agreement for a further year. The employer and trade union parties agreed
that the current main agreement (due to expire on 30 June, 2010) would be extended by a
further 12 months and will now remain in operation until 30 June, 2011. Apart from wage
increases on 1 July, 2009, and again in 2010, all other conditions of employment contained
in the agreement remained unchanged. These were some of the agreements that were
reached between employers and trade union parties that prevented large-scale labour
disputes. In general, South Africa enjoyed a higher level of industrial peace in 2008 than in
any other year since the 90s.




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     Figure 1 illustrates the number of strike cases between 2004 and 2008. From the chart it
     is clear that strike activity measured in terms of labour disputes increased from 49 cases in
     2004 to 57 in 2008. This represented an increase of 16.3% (8) cases between 2004 and
     2008. These incidents were mostly small-scale. The disputes included those that affected
     the University of Zululand, Prospec, Sol Plaatjie Municipality, Mamathola Farms, Global
     Cleaning Services Pty (Ltd), University of the Free State, Golden Arrows Bus Service, the
     Tshwane Metro and its sub-contractors (Milnex and Quatrokor CC) etc. The industrial
     actions were small in terms of the number of days lost and number of workers involved. For
     example, the incident that affected Global Cleaning Services Pty (Ltd) in 2008, involved
     only 42 workers and lasted for only 2 days, whilst the strike that affected the Rand Carbide
     Branch of Silicon Smelters involved 90 workers and lasted for only 3 hours. The trend in
     strike incidents shows that in the past five years, the country experienced the highest
     strike incidents of 102 in 2005, followed by 99 in 2006 and 75 in 2007. However, 2008,
     was characterised by Cosatu’s national protest actions against an increase in the general
     price of goods and services and load shedding in July and August 2008. These protest
     actions received mixed support that differs from one sector to another. The protests were
     mainly supported by mine workers and car assembly workers.

     Figure 1: Trends in the number of labour disputes in South Africa, 2004-2008



                 2008                                                        57




                 2007                                                             75




                 2006                                                                        99




                 2005                                                                        102




                 2004                                              49


                           0              20            40              60        80   100         120

                                                             Strike incidents




     Source: Department of Labour, Strikes Statistics


     Figure 2 indicates that strike activity measured in working days lost declined between
     2004 and 2008. Strike activity measured in working days lost decreased from 1 286 003
     in 2004 to 497 436 in 2008. This represented a decline of 61.3% (788 567) between
     2004 and 2008. Strikes that affected Bid Air Ground Handling contributed about 69 000
     working days lost to the total, followed by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality with 34 765,
     Telkom SA Ltd with 23 380, WBHO/Pauls with 14 840, Helam Mining (Pty) Ltd with


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13 464 and Weste End Claybrick (Pty) Ltd with 10 890. These strikes contributed a high
proportion of working days lost to total working days lost. Although Cosatu’s protest
actions did not receive sector-wide support and were only for 2 days, they also contributed
a proportionate size to the total working days lost. This is the case since some of the
mines reported around 60% of the total workforce staying away from work. Within the
mining industry there was also an agreement between management and the NUM that when
a mine worker is killed, workers would be allowed to mourn the deceased. This stoppage
was not classified by management as a strike or protest, hence no action was taken against
workers and the “no work, no pay rule” was not applied. South Africa experienced a number
of these stoppages in 2008.

Figure 2: Working days lost due to industrial actions in South Africa,
          2004-2008



      2008             497 436




      2007                                                                                       9 528 945




      2006                                                 4 152 563




      2005                                    2 627 953




      2004                     1 286 003



                0                2 million          4 million          6 million   8 million   10 million
                                                          Working days lost


Source: Department of Labour, Strikes Statistics


Figure 3 shows the rate of days not worked due to industrial actions per 1 000 workers
between 2004 and 2008. This is the measure which best reconciles the number of days
lost due to industrial action with the varying sizes of the countries’ employed population
and provides a reasonable basis for international comparisons. The time-loss ratio declined
dramatically from 107 in 2004 to 36 in 2008. This represents a decrease of 66.4% (71) in
the time-loss ratio between 2004 and 2008. This implies that for every 1 000 workers in
2008, 36 working days were lost and clearly represent the lowest ever.




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     Figure 3: Rate of days not worked due to industrial actions per 1 000
               workers, 2004-2008


                             800                                      753


                             700


                             600


                             500
           Time-loss ratio




                             400                               334


                             300
                                                        221

                             200
                                   107
                             100
                                                                             36

                               0
                                   2004                 2005   2006   2007   2008


     Source: Department of Labour, Strikes Statistics




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