As Africa’s most industrialized country, South Africa’s labour unions are effective and powerful – and as such, they have designed ways to continuously engage with government and employers, mostly through the country’s collective bargaining legislation. The collective bargaining agreement helps negotiate increased wages and add-ons. In recent months, there have been a number of strike actions resulting from breakdowns between workers’ unions and employers. Currently, several unions are in talks or on strike at various industries, private companies and in government employment.
Earlier in May, the Congress of South Africa’s Trade Unions (COSATU) demanded a 10% increase in the wages being paid to its workers in addition to housing stipends, bursary funds for children, relief fund for disasters and opportunities for early access to pension funds. Being the largest of South Africa’s three main trade federations, a strike by COSATU could lead to the closure of schools, hospitals and many other public establishments. The case is similar to what obtains in the private sector: the mining company Sibaye-Stillwater has had its gold workers on strike since March. For Thursday’s edition of Business Edge, the focus is on the effect of these negotiations and the possibility of strike actions across South Africa. Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun speaks to Casper Badenhorst, Director and Senior Associate at Ulrich Roux and Associates who joins in from Johannesburg.
Perhaps, a sticky point that had yet to be addressed is the figure the unions, COSATU in particular are asking. Roux explains that while the country’s inflation rate is 5.9% with an increase in fuel, electricity and food prices, it was unlikely that South Africa would be able to implement the wage at the cost being demanded by the unions.
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