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Strikes threaten SA's economy

Massive industrial action across the country is threatening the stability of the economy.

A mine shaft. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - As the South African economy battles a wave of strikes and looming mass action, the Rand is edging closer to R10.50 to the US dollar.

A strike in the gold sector seems increasingly possible after wage negotiations deadlocked between unions and the Chamber of Mines.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has rejected with contempt a final pay offer made by the Chamber of Mines.

The chamber's offer of between 6 and 6.5 percent has been labelled by the NUM as a joke.

The NUM's Lesiba Seshoka has threatened massive industrial action.

"We are disappointed by this and we are going to be consulting with our members to ensure that disciplinary action is taken against the Chamber of Mines and its affiliates through massive industrial action."

Trade unions the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Unions (Amcu) and the United Association of South Africa (Uasa) and Solidarity are yet to decide on the offer.

The unions and the chamber have been engaged in wage negotiations for a number of months.

Various unions have different demands ranging from a 10 percent increase to 100 percent.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa said his union is now talking to its members.

"The process now is to go back to our branches and update them and seek a fresh mandate from there."

Solidarity's Dirk Hermann said the union will embark on a mandate process over the next couple of days amongst its members.

"We expect in the next couple of days to have a massive mandate process among our members to get the final mandate from them. We will then come back to the Chamber of Mines and make our decision public."

Meanwhile, the chamber's chief negotiator Elize Strydom said it's a fair wage offer.

"We made the offer we thought we could make under the circumstances giving due regard to the financial realities within which the mining industry finds itself."

ECONOMY UNDER THREAT

There are warnings the latest round of strikes that have hit key sectors, have the potential to damage South Africa's economy.

Economist Dawie Roodt said the Rand is suffering as a result.

"We are certainly exacerbating a difficult situation with these sort of strikes. So the Rand certainly would've been at a better level than where it is at the moment if it wasn't for the strikes."

Standard Bank Chief Economist Goolam Ballim said the strikes may very well cripple logistics.

"We see the employees of fuel retailers also for example threatening to embark on industrial action."

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) confirmed on Tuesday that petrol station and car dealership staff will go on strike for higher wages on Monday.

Up to 72,000 members are expected to embark on the strike.

Around 18,000 Numsa members in the vehicle manufacturing sector have been on strike for over a week.

Members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) working for South African Airways are also engaged in mass action over wages.

Police administration staff affiliated with the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) are also expected to go on strike tomorrow.