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South Africa’s showdown with unions gets ugly

And is likely to escalate.

A showdown between South Africa’s government and its workers whose salaries are straining the national budget just got ugly — and looks set to get a whole lot worse.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association, which represent more than 3 000 staff at South African Airways, have said they’ll go on strike Friday in protest at the carrier’s plans to fire 944 employees. Their demands include job security for at least three years, 8% salary increases and a halt to the contracting-in of security, cleaning and other services.

SAA cancelled all its flights scheduled for November 15 and 16 “to minimise the impact of disruptions“ that might result from the strike, it said in a statement Wednesday.

Read: SAA cancels flights due to union strike over wages – report

The airline, which has lost more than R28 billion over the past 13 years and is reliant on government bailouts to remain solvent, says it has no option other than to restructure or place the entire business at risk. The unions counter that their members shouldn’t have to pay the price of years of mismanagement and misappropriation of the airline’s funds, and that alternate remedies need to be sought.

Read:

SOE job cuts gather pace, unions balk

Num threatens more power cuts over Eskom split

The upheaval at SAA is likely to be a precursor to labour action at other state companies that are trying to trim their bloated wage bills.

Eskom, the loss-making utility that supplies about 95% of the nation’s power, says it has about 16 000 staff more than it needs. Unions have pledged to bring the entire country to a halt should widespread job cuts be instituted.

‘War’ warning

Labor groups representing workers employed directly by the state have similarly warned of “war” should the government seek to unfairly limit salary increases or try to roll back an inflation-busting three-year pay deal that expires in 2022.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has cautioned that state coffers are almost bare and with the economy barely growing, the government risks falling into a debt trap unless spending is cut.

Treasury data shows that compensation for state employees accounts for 35% of national expenditure and that the average remuneration in the public service rose 66% over the past decade after accounting for inflation. National and provincial government employees on average earn about R393 000 a year, or 44% more than those who work non-agricultural sector jobs in the private sector do, it said.

Even so, President Cyril Ramaphosa will have a hard time facing down the unionists, which supported his rise to power and are among his staunchest backers within the deeply divided ruling party.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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We have an actual Communist Party?! The proletariat don’t seem to realise that: (a) even communists are no longer communist and (b) that ideology is bathed in as much blood as the Nazi party was. Yet there you go, red-bannered cadres, fighting for the workers (note, not the poor), then slipping home in their German luxury sedans. You can’t make this stuff up

If Union members should not have to pay for years of mismanagement at the airline, why should the taxpayer? The idea that the taxpayer is a faceless entity with endless resources must end and we need to return to frugal management of public resources because we are not a rich country and we do not produce more than we consume. We should stop acting like we do. If we cannot see the wood for the trees we are going to wake up in a desert.

Exactly! Why should the already strained tax payer pay for the mismanagement? Already Mboweni said with the recent interim budget tax is likely to increase in the Feb national budget next year.
Everyone seems to think its a bottomless pit!

We have a massively over staffed SAA and Eskom, not to mention other sub-optimal SOE’s and yet we have massively understaffed police and state medical services. This just confirms where the ANC’s priorities are. They couldn’t give a damn about the majority of the people who are affected by crime and poor health services. They are only interested in looking after their “cadre” buddies with cushy employment. The coffers are bare and the party has ended, now let’s see what happens as the tri-partite alliance turns on itself.

100%. The consituancy that the ANC serves are itself and it’s alliance partners. The man in the street counts for nothing.

These unions will soon learn that their tactic of always trying to get the employer over a barrel by striking indefinitely has stopped working.

The money is finished and nobody cares if everything goes bust. Capishe?

Why has Mr. Jim not incited his NUMSA comrades to return to their indefinite strike at ArcelorMittal? They never finished it. Because the money is finished and his comrades will soon be hitting the streets in their numbers. This time not for a toi-toi.

They are going to be suffering and they might then remember to thank him.

No. SAA and ESKOM will agree to the wage increase. They will meet in the middle and that is what the unions want!

The only thing that will be ‘ugly’ is the way these SOE’s will give in to union demands.

The simpler amongst us can never grasp the fact that they were the beneficiaries of the mismanagement. Inflated remuneration and no efficiency, which could have meant that they should possibly not even have been employed in the first instance.

Union logic at its best: They would prefer it if the organisation fails and 5000 workers lose there jobs versus 900 workers lose their jobs now, the company survives and employs many more in the years to come.

I have flown SAA billions of times and, in fairness, have had a generally good experience.

I feel very sorry for the families that will be affected by redundancies/closures, who will invariably be the people who will be worst affected. This should be an experiment for what SA can do for SAA, and quickly. Keep it, sell it, just stop this madness.

Treasury data shows that compensation for state employees accounts for 35% of national expenditure and that the average remuneration in the public service rose 66% over the past decade after accounting for inflation. National and provincial government employees on average earn about R393 000 a year, or 44% more than those who work non-agricultural sector jobs in the private sector do, it said. WELL DONE GOVERNMENT

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