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Strike Barometer: Most stoppages linked to wage issues

Publication: IOL
Author: Nicola Daniels

At least 39 strikes were recorded in the first half of 2023, with the majority concerning wage-related issues including non-payment of wages, overtime and allowances.

This is according to the Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO) strike barometer which covered strike statistics between January 1 and June 30, using desktop research, information on trade union websites and social media pages, union members’ WhatsApp groups, the mainstream media and public broadcasters’ websites.

According to the report, 19 of the strikes (49%) were wildcat, and 20 (51.2%) were protected.

The majority of these 21 (54%), concerned wage increases and wage-related issues such as non-payment of wages, overtime and allowances. Five were about the non-payment of wages.

When non-payment of overtime, bonuses, or benefit fund contributions are included this figure rose to 10, making non-payments the single highest reason for striking (25.6%).

The majority of strikes took place in the public sector.

Strike action was also recorded at a university and a regulatory authority.

“In the first half of 2023, the highest number of strikes were over wage-related issues. 25.6% of these strikes were for a wage increase, mainly during a round of collective bargaining, while 28.2% of these strikes were for payment of outstanding allowances, including overtime and medical aid payments.

“This mainly reflected a growing trend in municipalities where the overtime budget is cut, even though essential service workers continue to work overtime without knowing that they will not be paid.

Sometimes, workers’ contributions to their medical aid funds or unions are retained by corrupt or unstable municipalities.

“The second highest number of strikes (28.2%) was for permanent jobs - either a strike against an end to a temporary contract or a demand to be in-sourced.

“These strikes were prevalent in the public sector where a pattern has emerged of the government hiring essential workers on short-term contracts, and then refusing to renew the contracts because of budget cuts and later renewing the contracts only after the workers’ strike,” the report read.

The third highest reason for striking (12.8%) was for employers to recognise the unions that workers chose to belong to.

“This occurred mainly when large groups of workers decided to leave one of the established unions in the workplace and join a new union that they felt would be more effective,” the report stated.

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