R6.7 billion in wages lost to SA strikes

New data published by the Department of Labour found that R6.7 billion was lost in wages due to striking workers in 2013.

This compares to R6.6 billion lost in 2012, R1.07 billion in 2012, and R407 million in 2010.

The DoL also pointed to an increase in the number of strike incidents in South Africa. The number of strikes increased from 99 in 2012 to 114 in 2013 – a 15.2% increase.

Working days lost through industrial disputes in 2013 were, however, lower than working days lost in 2012. Workdays lost decreased by 44.2% from 3,309,884 in 2012 to 1,847,006 in 2013.

In releasing the Annual Industrial Action Report 2013, Labour minister, Mildred Oliphant, said that in order address the issue of reducing strikes incidents with regards to wage demands: “possibilities of increasing minimum wages to address poverty and inequality and to expand to expand provision for retirement savings for low income workers will come sharp focus in the future”.

More than half (52%) of the strikes in 2013 were unprotected as compared to 48% protected strikes. This is unlike 2012, where protected strikes amounted to 54%.

The working days lost per 1,000 employees due to strikes decreased from 244 in 2012 to 131 in 2013. This represents a 46.3% decrease.

The 131 days lost per 1,000 workers is the lowest it has been in the past five years, the department said.

Key features of strike incidents in the 2013 report include the following:

  • South Africa has experienced a rise in strikes from 2009 to 2013 with the exception of 2011 where strikes recorded were lower. In 2009, the Department recorded 51 cases of industrial action, 74 cases in 2010, 67 in 2011, 99 in 2012, and 114 in 2013
  • Working days lost had decreased to 1,847,006 in 2013 as compared to 3,309,884 in 2012
  • Unlike in 2012, protected strikes in 2013 amounted to 48% as compared to the 54% in 2012
  • The mining industry continued to experience more working days lost (515,971 in 2013) contributing 27.9% of the total days lost. This was followed by the transport and manufacturing industries at 477,355 and 343,222 working days lost respectively
  • In terms of work stoppages recorded provincially, Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal continued to experience more strikes incidents at 97, 66, and 44 respectively
  • The median wage settlement level as reported by Labour Research Services in 2013 was about 8%
  • SATAWU and NUM were mostly affected as a result of high member participation during strike actions in 2013 where both recorded 25.7% and 17.4% respectively
  • Wages, bonuses, and other compensation disputes remain the main reason for work stoppages in 2013 at 76.6% working days lost

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R6.7 billion in wages lost to SA strikes