According to the Industrial Action Report, 2015, released yesterday by the Department of Labour, in most instances wage settlements were lower than the initial wage demands by unions.  In more than 50% wage increases were imposed on employees after the parties failed to agree on wages.

The launch of the Department of Labour Industrial Action Report, 2015: Lloyd Ramutloa 2016-12-14


This is an annual update report that provides an analysis of strike activities in the South African labour market using the Department of Labour strike database.  The strike statistical information is compiled to respond to the need of a variety of individuals with an interest in South Africa’s industrial relations environment including government departments, unions, employers, business, international organizations, research institutes, NGO’s and students.

The 2015 Industrial Action Report provides a ten year comparative analysis as compared to previous releases, e.g., Five year analysis.  The purpose was to observe how all key indicators perform in line with various shocks in the South African economy over a 10 year period.  In this respect, there are five key measures of strikes that are covered in the report, namely,

  • number of industrial actions,
  • working days lost,
  • time-loss ratio,
  • working hours lost and
  • wages lost.


  • Following this, the number of strikes, working days lost and number of workers involved in strike in South Africa fluctuated in the past ten years from 2005 to 2015 with an annual average of 85 strike incidents, 5.2 million working days lost and 335 000 workers involved per annum respectively.
  • A trend in strikes occurrence has been recorded in the mining (gold and platinum) community, manufacturing and transport industries. Nevertheless, the mining industry has shown relatively higher working days lost as compared to other industries from 2013-2015;
  • Over the same period 2013 -2015, the lowest number of strikes was seen in the Finance and Utilities industries;
  • An increase in the number of work stoppages from all economic sectors was also observed between 2014 and 2015. This represents almost 25 per cent of strike increase over the same period.  However, there was an 8 percent increase in strikes increase over the 10 year analysis period.  This may be regarded as insignificant;
  • In 2015, we observed that 55 percent of the total strikes were unprotected strikes (not complying with the LRA) as compared to 48 percent observed in 2014;
  • The wages lost decreased dramatically from R6.1 billion in 2014 to R116 million in 2015. This represents a decrease of 98 percent in wages lost in the economy.  Over the 10 year analysis period, it represents 62 percent in wages lost.  The variation in wages lost could be attributed to the number of workers who participated in strikes and the duration of strikes for a particular period;
  • There was a fluctuation on working days lost in the past ten year’s period. However, the lowest number of working days lost were recorded in 2008 (497 436 days lost).  Over the 2015 period, the number of working days lost were  903 921;

Provincial dynamics

  • By province, Gauteng experienced a higher number of work stoppages as compared to other provinces from 2013-2015. This could be associated with the size of its provincial economy compared to the size of other provincial economies;

Causes of strikes

  • Disputes over wages, bonuses and other compensation matters remain the main cause of strikes in the country. It can probably be explained by the cost of living that is closely related with the cost of inflation over time;

Levels of settlement

  • The analysis shows that in most cases wage settlements were lower than the initial wage demands by unions. On the other hand, in more than 50 percent of the cases, wage increases are imposed on workers where collective bargaining did not result in an agreement on wages;

Working days lost

  • Evidence shows that AMCU was responsible for the highest number of working days lost in 2014 with 92.2 percent as opposed to 2015 where they were only responsible for  0.8 percent of working days lost;

Duration of industrial action

  • In terms of strike duration, more than 61 percent of work stoppages lasted between 1-5 days in 2013 and 2015; and between 16-20 days in 2014;

Size of enterprises

  • The analysis illustrates again that companies employing more than 150 workers in 2015 had recorded short duration of work stoppages with a small number of employees involved in strikes. This was not the case with small companies with less than 50 workers in 2014.