“If we have a look at what’s being said now about Eskom and Telkom wishing to lay off now, I think in Telkom’s case, [it’s] 40,000 workers they’re talking about. You’ve got mines talking about laying off several thousand as well as they move into mechanisation, in other words, because labour has become, as the mine owners see it, too expensive, you use machines rather than men,” labour analyst Terry Bell, told CNBC Africa.
“It’s going to be a difficult situation. In terms of job creation, I’m afraid it looks very bleak for the future.”
In the mining sector specifically which, according to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, accounted for roughly 389,000 jobs in the third quarter of 2013, labour unrest has been a constant trend.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the majority union at major platinum companies in South Africa, recently announced that its members had voted to strike over wages at Impala Platinum.
This while some disgruntled workers represented by the union have threatened to break away from it.
“The miners who rebelled against the National Union of Mineworkers moved towards Amcu and many of them also moved towards the National Union of Metalworkers, Numsa. You now have miners finding that the situation has not changed and that the unions are not going to be able to change it either so they’re now saying ‘Look, NUM didn’t deal with us properly, now Amcu is not either so we’re going to form our own union’,” Bell explained.
“In the mining sector at the moment, because of the nature of mining and because more mechanisation is coming in, there are going to be retrenchments. They can form their own union. However, it’s not going to change the material conditions that they face.”
Bell added that with so many miners being retrenched, it would seem that it’s those miners that are forming new unions.
“More fragmentation is going to make it more difficult for the mine workers to establish any sort of leverage with the employers. At the moment, you have a situation where with miners who lose jobs, forming unions or trying to form unions, it’s not going to help them but the miners who are actually working,” he said.
“It will weaken the trade union movement overall and, in terms of negotiations, it’s going to strengthen the hand of the employer.”