News / Economy

S. Africa: Economy Cannot Absorb More Labor Unrest

FILE - South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his 2013 Budget speech at Parliament in Cape Town, Feb. 27, 2013.
FILE - South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his 2013 Budget speech at Parliament in Cape Town, Feb. 27, 2013.
Reuters
— South Africa's ailing economy cannot afford more mine labor unrest, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Monday, as the platinum industry's main trade union served notice on the world's top three producers that it planned to strike this week.

A series of sometimes violent strikes in the factory and mining sectors constrained growth to a sluggish 2 percent in 2013, hampering efforts by President Jacob Zuma's government to create badly needed jobs as it braces for elections this year.

The African National Congress has swept elections since overturning white minority rule in 1994, but the party Zuma now heads faces growing criticism that it has failed to lift millions of blacks out of poverty during 20 years in power.

Platinum producers Anglo American Platinum, Lonmin and Impala Platinum said they had received notice from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to strike in 48 hours, setting the  stage for another crippling wave of unrest.

The chamber of mines, which represents bullion producers, said it was seeking a court order to block plans by the AMCU to down tools at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusaselethu and Masimong mines, and at AngloGold Ashanti's local operations.

The AMCU, which has a record of militancy, has rejected a 8 percent pay hike that rival union National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which still represents most gold miners, agreed with producers last year.

The rand hovered close to recent five year lows after news of the planned strikes and Gordhan's warning, with scope to extend its nearly 4 percent losses against the dollar in the first three weeks of the new year.

Renewed labor strife in Africa's biggest economy will raise a red flag for ratings agencies after more than 50 people died during violent mine protests in 2012 that triggered downgrades from Moody's, Fitch, and Standard and Poor's and helped knock about 25 percent off the rand's value.

“The platinum industry needs to seriously get around the table,” Gordhan told state broadcaster SAFM in an interview on Monday. “We can least afford another round of strikes that will act as a destabilization to the platinum sector, which has had increasing difficulties over the last 18 months.”

Strikes constrain South Africa rating

Earlier this month, Moody's cited weakening productivity and strike-related business losses, exacerbated by declining terms of trade, as a major credit challenge for South Africa.

“The economy has never fully recovered its momentum following the global recession in 2009, partly due to domestic political and economic turbulence ignited by violent labor unrest and the associated uncertainty that it has created,” it said.

Demands for wage increases well above inflation of 5.3 percent will also worry the Reserve Bank, which has been blocked from further policy loosening by price pressures stemming from the rand's weakness.

The central bank will likely keep interest rates at a four-decade low of 5 percent at its first policy meeting of the year next week.

At Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin, the AMCU is seeking a minimum monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,200) for entry-level workers - more than double current levels, under the populist banner of a “living wage”.

At Impala, the union scaled back its demand late last year to just over 8,500 rand a month.

The NUM said on Friday it had accepted overall wage increase offers of between 9.8 and 11.8 percent from mid-tier platinum producer Northam Platinum in a bid to end a 75-day strike by more than 7,000 miners.

Companies have said they can ill afford steep increases as power and other costs soar while prices for platinum, used in pollution-reducing automobile catalytic converters, remain depressed.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Magician
January 21, 2014 1:57 PM
Sadly the Unions have made unrealistic high monetary demands which shall have far reaching effects on the economy and investment, resulting in a possible interest rate hike and further layoffs. However it will not end even if an agreement is reached as wage increases are an annual "given", spiralling to where, nobody knows??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.