Every year, South Africa loses billions to strike action
Strike action is rife in South Africa. Last year, we reported that a 2012 Industrial Action Report tabled by the Department of Labour (DoL) showed a significant increase in the number of strikes in 2012 compared to the previous four years.
2013 was even worse.
And 2014 got off to a similar start. In fact, as we speak, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is on strike. The strike over wages has been going on for over two months.
The SABC reports that economists say the strike by Amcu crippling has cost the country's economy more than R3 billion to date.
The good news is government plans to put an end to prolonged strike action and the violence by introducing new laws.
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What you need to know about governments' plans to reform labour laws around strike action
Carol Paton writes in BDlive that the government has opened the door to the possibility of further labour law amendments, especially those that could limit long and violent strikes, and has invited social partners to 'a structured discussion' on the matter.
According to Paton, the Department of Labour acting deputy director-general Thembi-Nkosi Mkalipi said in an interview last week the government had submitted a proposal to business and labour representatives in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to hold a 'labour relations indaba to address the challenges facing labour relations.'
Paton says the indaba, to be held in the second half of the year, is framed in terms of a response to Marikana. However, the partners would be free to make suggestions for the agenda.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is quoted as saying that 'the indaba would 'conduct a holistic situational analysis of the labour market in South Africa with a view to identify the problem areas and to agree on a set of interventions to remedy such ills.'
Oliphant goes on to say that 'the department had commenced exploring possible regulatory instruments to curb protracted industrial action and would advise this house (parliament) at an appropriate point.'
That's not governments' only plan to reform labour laws around strike action
Paton adds that the other suggestion has been to revisit the 'majoritarian principle,' which allows unions with a membership of 50% of the workforce to set thresholds for competing unions, in effect shutting them out.
This is considered vital by labour law experts in revisiting the labour relations framework. The effect of the majoritarian principle has been to limit the number of voices in industrial relations processes that employers can legitimately speak to, writes Paton.
There's no denying that strike action in South Africa has gotten out of control. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of the indaba that government is talking about. We'll keep you updated on the latest developments regarding this issue.