COSATU Strike Underway in South Africa
South African workers are going on a one-day strike today as called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to demand the protection of textile and mining jobs.
“We cannot say the economy is booming when we have unemployment at around 40 percent,” COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven said. “We want a completely different mindset from business — saving jobs instead of cutting them for short term commercial gain.”
As many as 500,000 workers may be taking part in the strike. Another demand that the strike hopes to achieve is the weakening of the rand. The currency’s strength has hit mine profitability, leading to many job losses. According to Bloomberg News,
Johannesburg-based Harmony Gold Mining Co., the country’s third largest gold miner, has cut 11,000 jobs in the past 12 months, as the rand’s 78 percent gain against the dollar since the end of 2001 slashed profit. About 40,000 jobs have been lost in the textile and footwear industries since 2003 amid a flood of cheap imports from China, in an economy with a 26 percent unemployment rate…
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, Kumba Resources Ltd., the world’s fourth-largest iron ore producer, and Anglo American Platinum Corp., the largest platinum producer, all plan to cut jobs this year.
“I’ve got three kids to feed and I can’t provide for them,” said Tanya Smiles, a worker who lost her job. “It’s heartbreaking. The government must do more to create jobs. There isn’t any work out there.”
I’m sure there are many more among the thousands of people on strike that would tell similar stories, and express similar views to those of Ms. Smiles. The government doesn’t think that the strike will do much good.
“We need to look beyond the level of the currency for competitiveness,” said Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa. “We need to look at all the other areas that have also been affected. The strike won’t do anything to avert job losses.”