Oliphant: Strikes becoming a fashion statement

The labour minister voiced her concern over the growing frequency of strikes and lack of union leadership.

FILE: Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant. Picture AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Labour minister Mildred Oliphant has lamented the frequency of strikes in South Africa, saying they're becoming a "fashion statement" and are being used to demonstrate popular support.

Oliphant was speaking at the Congress of South African Trade Unions national congress in Midrand, where she also questioned why strikes are allowed to drag on when settlements with companies are usually only half a percent better.

The minister also deplored what she describes as the new trend of her department being called in to help resolve labour disputes.

#COSATU Oliphant: As we speak, my cellphone has become a toll free centre where i deal with issues from workers who are your members. GW

She says strikes are no longer being considered as a last resort, and has voiced concern about what she calls a lack of leadership from union bosses.

"It does not seem like the cost and benefit analysis informs the union leadership when deciding to call workers out on strike, and at which point does it need to be called off."

Earlier this year the Communication Workers Union went on strike for two months, and its general secretary Aubrey Tshablala says he does not agree with the minister.

He says a host of different factors can prompt workers to down tools.

"It is also a sign of frustration from workers and reluctance of the employers to bargain with workers."

Oliphant also revealed that South Africa has 185 registered unions and 23 federations, but only 27 percent of the workforce is unionised.

#COSATU Oliphant: Proliferation of bogus unions has increased in recent past. Some are splinters form COSATU unions. GW