n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - The real toll of South Africa's labour aggressiveness - regular and prolonged violent strikes characterise endless labour strife - : Southern Africa - issue in focus

Volume 2013, Issue 11
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Labour unrest has become a daily feature in the South African news. Long and extended strikes, such as the month-long strike in the automotive-manufacturing industry that ended in October, indicate the strained labour relations within the country. With the on-going loss of productivity, the destruction of property at various strike locations and the recent memories the scenes of violent suppression by the police at the Lonmin Mine at Marikana in 2012, the relationship between South Africa's workers and employers are as fragile as the nerves of a South African public and business community at the unsettled state of national affairs wrought by perpetual labour unrest.

In a country with a dramatic economic divide between the haves and have-nots, where 52.3% of the population are living below the poverty line and high unemployment endures, workers are demanding better lives through high wages. Their wage demands, when met with employer intransigence, prompt workers to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right to strike in protest. However, a variety of factors affect the ability of employers to meet the desires of the workers. The inability of the workers and employers to deal swiftly and effectively with strike action has dire consequences for the economic and social stability of the country. Better communication between labour and management, government support for negotiations and stronger labour organisation leadership are needed to ensure quick and effective negotiations without the necessity of violent incidents.

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