Strike to Expand to Port and Railway Workers, fuels growing labour unrest in South Africa
On 8 October, SA Transport and Allied Workers Unions (Satawu) spokesman Vincent Masonga indicated that the union has applied to the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for permission to expand the freight workers strike to the ports and railway workers.
The application has been attributed to a negotiation deadlock between the Road Freight Employer’s Association (RFEA) and Satawu. Satawu has been asking for a 12 % wage increase in the workers’ wages but is reported to be willing to compromise for 10%. Despite the union’s compromise, RFEA is not willing to budge from the initial offer of 8.5%.
The country’s labour unrest first developed in the mining industry and progressed to the transport industry and will now affect the port and railway industry. Signs on the ground indicate that the labour unrest is unrelenting, will continue in the short-medium term and the simultaneous strikes may hurt an already ailing South African economy.
An estimated 100 000 mine and road freight workers are already on strike in South Africa and with railway and port industry workers set to also go on strike this figure could double or even triple – a loss of production in multiple sectors. Mining company, AngloGold, has reported a loss in production in the amount of 39% due to the on-going strikes. Decrease in production in the mining sector will increase gold prices and losses suffered to the mining companies such as AngloGold.
The wage increases in the mining sector, such as those implemented by Lonmin (in ending a long-drawn strike at the Company’s Markina mine), are not realistic and not in the best interests of everyone. Realistically, mining companies would rather dismiss their workers and get new workers in order to continue production than to have to agree to the wage increase proposal as was evident by the mining company Anglo American Platinum Mines. It remains to be seen how transport and now port and railway companies will deal with the strike of their workers as well as loss in production.
The unions involved in the road freight workers strike, Satawu, the Professional Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (PTAWU) and the Motor Transport Workers’ Union’s (MTWU) say that they are confident that a solution will be found by the negotiations which will be held this week and the strike will not continue for much longer. The unions understand that the strike could cause job losses and this is probably why they have decided to try to will the Employer’s Association into the negotiations by causing an even bigger stir by getting the port and railway workers to go on strike. This means that companies now have absolutely no way of transporting their goods and may be forced into negotiations with the Unions.
The South African government has done little to foster negotiations between striking workers and companies and the government’s only pronouncement was the reiteration of the point the the strikes and protesting workers force could send the country into a mode of recession. Several other sectors could be affected, those with investments or conducting business in labour-risk adverse industries should be on high-alert as the labour-unrest contagion continues to spread.
-Political Analysis South Africa