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The five month platinum strike has confounded the pundits. The old book of rules is being ripped to shreds. A new normal beckons. By now, cash-strapped workers should have long capitulated. Yet the strike continues. How?
Two things make it possible. Around 20% of the strikers have resigned, triggering the cashing in of their pension funds. That provides enough capital for them to keep going for months.
The other is the impact of social grants. With 16m South Africans receiving a monthly handout from the State, the mine worker is no longer the sole breadwinner for his collective, widely estimated as 10 dependents.
So the workers are able to hold out for much longer than anyone believed possible. But not indefinitely. And when the strike does end, there will be significant, mostly unintended consequences – increased mechanisation and more difficult retirement the obvious ones.
The strike has also highlighted SA’s unsustainable labour laws that are now so weighted against employers they are challenged in the courts when wanting to communicate directly with employees.
Much will change. Much of it long overdue. Mostly for the better. Simply because it’s practically impossible to fall when you’re ranked last of 146 countries in the WEF’s assessment of the efficacy of your labour laws.
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