It's not so much our strikes as our striking appearance

27 June 2014 - 02:16 By The Times Editorial
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Investors perceive us as a strike-prone country. If you dabble in South Africa, you are dabbling in labour instability, they think.

It could still be lucrative, but there is always the risk that the workforce will down tools and embark on long, self-destructive bouts of demanding more.

This is a bit harsh, analysts from a major bank said last week in a conference call. South Africa does not experience noticeably more strikes than its peers, they said, if one compares the ratio of number of days on strike to the number of days worked by the total workforce.

The reason we are viewed as a nation on strike is that we do it more colourfully.

South African workers dress up for the occasion, they have songs and traditional weapons and long lines of rhythmic marching (though not always in step).

This makes for great television for the 24-hour news channels. And that is where the perception comes from.

But other factors have added to it in recent months. Numsa yesterday promised an indefinite strike by its members, who are employees in businesses ranging from Eskom to small businesses eking out an existence in the manufacturing sector.

This less than a week after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union claimed victory in the platinum industry strike.

The government has started to signal a willingness to intervene in labour disputes.

The attempt by Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi to broker a deal between Amcu and the platinum producers was unprecedented.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi yesterday said the government would try and get the relevant parties together before Tuesday in a bid to resolve the looming metalworkers' strike.

What now? Should Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies try and cut a deal between Numsa and the industry?

If every strike necessitates government involvement we are just creating another level of bureaucracy.