South Africa recorded at least 88 labor strikes in 2014, which cost the economy nearly $500 million, according to a Department of Labor report released Thursday. Though there were more strikes recorded the previous year, the overall impact on the economy was greater in 2014, as the length of strikes increased fourfold.
Most strikes – at least 98 percent -- focused on wages, bonuses, and other compensation disputes, Business Report reported. Nearly half of the strikes held in 2014 were not protected by the law, meaning workers held them illegally. The Association of Minworkers and Construction Union, or AMCU, held a majority of the strikes, followed by the Metalworkers Union of South Africa, Numsa.
The year saw a massive, five-month strike among platinum workers, held by the AMCU, demanding wages be doubled. Ultimately the strikers settled with employers over a modest wage increase, but it was considered the longest wage strike in South Africa’s history. The average strike in 2013 lasted just one to five working days, whereas the average strike lasted up to 20 days in 2014.
Strikes are rather common among workers in South Africa, where youth unemployment sits at over 50 percent and the economy has generally been slowing. Overall unemployment sat at about 25 percent in the second quarter of 2015, a decline from a 10-year high of 26.4 percent reported in the previous period.
A recent analysis by the data measurement group Nielsen ranked South Africa as having low economic prospects. The nation ranked the worst of the selected nine African nations that were evaluated by the group. The report, however, said South Africa remains the continent’s most mature market, implying it had a good chance of recovery. Increasingly pessimistic about the economy, some corporations were reportedly sitting with record amounts of cash in banks, fin25, a South African news source, reported Thursday. The economy has struggled, with only modest gains since the 2009 recession.