SA records highest increase in labour strikes in 2017

Saftu members in Port Elizabeth march 8km as part of a nationwide strike yesterday
Saftu members in Port Elizabeth march 8km as part of a nationwide strike yesterday
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The country experienced its highest increase in labour strikes in 2017, with the figure rising by 8%.

This is according to the Industrial Action report released by the department of labour on Tuesday.

There were 132 work stoppages as a result of strikes in 2017, increasing from 122 the previous year.

The department said the hike was the highest ever recorded in the history of strike monitoring.

According to the report‚ 125‚000 employees were involved in strikes across all industries‚ costing the economy R251m in lost earnings in 2017, compared to R161m in 2016. The annual strike analysis is drawn up from data from employers and trade unions.

It measures labour disputes‚ work days lost and work stoppages‚ among other things.

The report showed that the entire construction industry workforce‚ at 98.4%, participated in industrial action during the reviewed year.

“Unlike in 2016‚ mining‚ the industry with potential for economic growth and labour absorption‚ lost more to wages in 2017, at about R137m.

“This was followed by the community‚ manufacturing and transport industries that were also affected‚ with the total wages lost nearly R96m and 80‚935 workers involved in strikes‚” the report said.

However‚ most of the strikes last year were protected, at 52%‚ unlike in 2016 when 59% of the strikes were unprotected‚ meaning workers had to obtain strike certificates.

Cosatu-affiliated trade unions, the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) recorded the highest number of members participating in strikes.

Nehawu members accounted for 29% and Samwu 10% of striking workers.

This was also reflected elsewhere in the report‚ with the public sector having lost more working days to industrial action than the private sector.

Both Nehawu and Samwu organise workers in the public sector.