Fewer strikers but more days lost to work stoppages in 2016

The South African labour economy lost approximately R161 million due to work stoppages in 2016 – an increase of 38.8 percent in wages lost due to work stoppages from the previous year.

Numsa members during a strike in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

This is according to the Department of Labour Industrial Action report for 2016‚ released on Thursday.

The South African labour market lost a total of 946‚323 working days as a result of 122 work stoppages. This represents a 4.7 percent increase in working days lost in 2016‚ compared to 903‚921 days lost in 2015.

There were 90‚228 workers involved in labour disputes in 2016‚ the lowest figure since strike records captured in 2013‚ the labour report noted.

Most of the work stoppages were due to wages‚ bonus and other compensation demands.

More work stoppages were experienced during the “strike season”‚ which are the second and third quarters of the year. More strikes during this period resulted in more work days lost.

“Strikes in company only” were predominantly higher contributing to 56 percent of strikes that took place in 2016. This was followed by those workers who were locked out at 26 percent.

Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal top the provinces affected by stoppages.

Companies with more than 1‚000 employees were mostly affected by industrial action during the second and third quarters of 2016 at 41 and 40 percent respectively.

The median wage settlement from various industries in 2016 was close to 8 percent as compared to 7.4 percent in 2015.

To address the issue of reducing strikes over wage demands‚ the Department of Labour said: “Possibilities of increasing minimum wages to address poverty and inequality and to expand provision for retirement savings for low income workers will become a sharp focus in the future”.

The report emphasised Minister Mildred Oliphant’s “concerns around the logic of pursuing strike action to the point where it damages workers’ interests”. It stated: “Either way‚ South Africa needs to find a solution for the seemingly faltering bargaining structure. Government‚ unions and business have an important role to play in order to maintain a stable labour force and fair labour practices that will attract investors and inspire economic growth in the long run.”

Source: TMG Digital.

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