Unions eye job losses

Trade unions are implementing action plans to mitigate the impact of retrenchments on employees, but have not ruled out the possibility of strike action if negotiations fail.

Labour federations and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), working with the Presidential Economic Joint Working Group, have produced a framework to respond to the economic crisis.

Cosatu said it wants businesses to scrutinise the process of retrenchments. It said in some cases companies have used the international economic crisis as the excuse to cut jobs and maximise profit.

“It does not make sense that the gold mines are jumping on the bandwagon of cutting jobs when the price of gold remains stable,” said Cosatu, reacting to the “job-loss bloodbath”.

But Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said: “There are no plans to strike as yet.
What is happening now is that the task teams from the presidential joint working group will do their follow-ups on the different sectors and then we will take it from there.”

The National Union of Mineworkers expected between 20 000 and 50 000 jobs will be shed this year, and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa says that 11 000 jobs were lost in the automobile industry in 2008 and a further 29 700 may go this year.

Federation of Unions of South Africa president Danie Carstens said his federation is not only working with Nedlac on strategies to minimise retrenchments, but is also demanding the Reserve Bank drop interest rates to stimulate consumer spending.

Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans said his union has received notices of planned retrenchments from 45 large companies. Consultations are still under way at many of these companies.

“Solidarity offers support to members by means of its own national personnel agency, its social support organisation and its technical training college. The trade union furthermore established the institution Career Clinic, in conjunction with Growth-Link, which supports people affected by retrenchments with financial planning, trauma therapy and career counselling,” Kleynhans said.

Thembelihle Tshabalala

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