Repairing the image and reasserting the credibility of South Africa’s rules-based collective bargaining labour-relations system is likely to be a key feature of deliberations between government, business, labour and community groups, which take place in Pretoria on Friday.
The high-level meeting has been convened by President Jacob Zuma to canvass collective solutions to the deterioration of the economic outlook for South Africa in light of ongoing global economic problems and the serious domestic industrial relations tensions that have resulted in strikes and violent protest action.
The National Treasury estimates that the unprotected strikes in the mining sector, which have involved some 75 000 miners, have already resulted in gold, platinum and coal production losses of R4.6-billion, while the truck drivers strike has disrupted manufacturing, services and logistics activities.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of a recent downgrade in South Africa’s credit rating by Moody’s and the issuance of a Cabinet statement expressing government’s anxiety over the outlook for the international and domestic economy.
Speaking at the Black Business Council Summit on Thursday, Zuma warned that a further deterioration in business confidence would result in lower investment and job creation and said he had convened the meeting of social partners to “get our country out of this current situation”.
He was supported by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, who said it was urgent to repair the collective bargaining labour-relations system that was “union-led, that has binding agreements that offers certainty for companies and complies to legal principles”.
Cabinet again called on workers to use “existing channels with unions to address grievance and wage negotiations in a manner that is in touch with our laws and collective bargaining practices”.