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In 2011, the Department of Labour (DoL) has recorded strike activity from several reports and the internet. A total of 67 work stoppages were captured in the DoL strike database. This shows a slight decrease in 2011 with 67 incidences recorded compared to 74 in the previous year 2010.
Data recorded by the DoL shows that the number of working days lost to work stoppages in 2011 also decreased to 2 806 656 working days (with 203 238 employees involved) compared to a record 20 674 737 that was lost in 2010 (with 1 191 813 employees involved).
The following are some of the key features of strikes incidents in South Africa in 2011:
There were 2 806 656 working days lost in 2011 as compared to 20 674 737 working days lost in 2010. This represents a decline of 636%. However, the “winter period (June- September)” still remains as what is generally known as the “strike season” as many stoppages occurred during this period. It represents 87% (2 448 409) of the total working days lost in 2011.
At the national level, an average of 65 strikes over five years period (2007/11) was estimated from the DoL strike database. As compared to other developing countries, it signals a good negotiation skills amongst all parties involved in process of labour disputes. In other words, the commitment of all parties to negotiate in good faith can lead to economic stability in the country.
The longest recorded strike in 2011 involved Sam’s Tissue Products and the union Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union (CEPPWAWU), which lasted for 67 days. The strike started on 15 September 2011 and was only resolved on 9 January 2012. About 4 898 workdays were lost during this action involving 79 workers.
The median wage settlement level as reported by the Labour Research Service in 2011 was about 8.0%, above the level of inflation in South Africa.
About 208 working days were lost to work stoppages per 1 000 working South Africans in 2011 compared to 1 593 in 2010.
The community, social and personal services industry had the highest working days lost of 1 461 123, which is just more than half (52.1%) of the total working days lost in 2011.
In 2011, electricity, gas and water supply and the construction industries experienced industrial peace, as they each recorded at most two work stoppages.
The number of employers that reported to have locked out strikers during work stoppages has remained the same with 3 for both years 2010 and 2011.
There were few industrial disputes in 2011 that involved many unions such as the municipal strike that was supported by South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) and,
Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU); Anglo-gold Ashanti strike supported by National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), UASA and Solidarity, truck drivers strike supported by Transport and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (TAWUSA), South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), metal industries strike sanctioned by National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Metal and Electrical Workers Union of South Africa (MEWUSA), & UASA, the chemical workers strike sanctioned by CEPPWAWU and SACWU, while the cleaners strike received support from SATAWU, DUSWO and Hotelicca.
In 2011, approximately R1 073 109 003 in wages was lost due to the participation of employees in work stoppages, compared to R407 082 302 in 2010. In 2011, data from the department indicates that more than half (52.3%) of the strikes lasted between 6 to 10 days up from 44.4% in the previous year 2010. These were the strikes involving the mining and manufacturing companies.
From the findings, the DoL would like to emphasise on the importance to remain focus amongst all stakeholders involved during the labour dispute negotiations in order to settle in good faith, in a short period and minimise the cost into the South African economy. For example, a dispute over 1% increase in the wage should not drag longer.