Strikes becoming more violent
17 August 2012 | JEANETTE CLARK
In an interview on the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb Loan Sharpe, a labour market analyst and director of Adcorp, said that ‘‘this is just the start’’.
‘‘I think when a market becomes saturated, as the trade unions market is in mining and the public sector and manufacturing and so many other sectors, I think you are going to see this kind of violence as unions carve up territory between them,’’ he said.
According to Andrew Levy, from Andrew Levy and Associates, it is a situation that has actually already spread from earlier unrest at another platinum producer, Impala Platinum.
Analysts and commentators have pointed out that the tragedy at Lonmin raises questions about leadership in labour movements and from corporate companies in resolving disputes, but that it is also pointing to the disconcerting possibility that labour protests are becoming more violent in South Africa.
At the unrest at Impala earlier this year, three people lost their lives and now the clash between majority member-union Num and new union Amcu at Lonmin led to another situation where people have died.
Police opened fire on a group of striking mineworkers, allegedly armed, on Thursday afternoon.
According to Levy there has been a strong and a steady escalation since 2005 in the level of violent behaviour during strike activity.
A read of the Department of Labour’s annual industrial action reports for the last two years shows this increase in the prevalence of violence in strikes. In 2010 and 2011 the report highlights 16 strikes where violence, intimidation and destruction of property was involved.
The reports list violent incidents and words, tempers flaring, the blockading of roads, police firing rubber bullets, chaos, intimidation and death are often repeated.
The reports clearly do not indicate all incidences of violence as no mention is made of the numerous accounts of violence during the public sector strike in August of 2010 where police used teargas and rubber bullets and many injuries were reported.
A report by the SA Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) says this strike was marred by intimidation, the forced closure of schools and hospitals, attacks on non-striking staff and the deaths of at least six patients deprived of medical care. Ronald Nyathi, Gauteng spokesman for teachers union Sadtu is quoted as saying: ‘‘Any school that remains open is declaring war on 1.3m people. We will crush you because we are many’’.
The monetary value of damage caused by strikes is also on the increase, according to the South African Special Risks Insurance Association. In its 2011 annual report it states that profit before tax decreased by more than 10%, due to a significant increase in claims, ‘‘mainly attributable to a marked increase in strike-related damage’’.
‘‘Historically over 80% of Sasria claims resulted from non-political and political riots. Since 2008, we have noted a steady decrease in such claims, whereas strike-related claims have increased significantly since 2006; strike-related claims now account for over 70% of Sasria claims,’’ the company states.
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