January 17, 2018

Viewpoint: Commodity price slump take away unions’ bargaining power

Once upon a time when all was hale and hearty, unions in most African countries – at the very least those fortunate enough to have vibrant mining sectors – had so much power that they barely knew what to do with it. They arm-twisted mining companies, held them to ransom by demanding stratospheric wage increases, threatening to destabilise the entire mining sector if employers did now cave in. Hastily, mining bosses fretful that an interruption to operations might translate into a multimillion potential revenue loss, with the sky high commodity prices, desperately conceded. Such had been a trend, unions played the tune and mining bosses danced, reluctantly.

That was then, this is now: commodity prices have slumped, unions, having virtually taken their powers away, are now agitating for their dwindling loyal members to stay employed (something they don’t have any control neither). Their current attempts to stem retrenchments are vain, at best, postponing the inevitable.

Thus, given the current avalanche of retrenchments, with mines having frozen recruitments, mineworkers worldwide would enthusiastically take with both hands a guarantee of job security without a salary increment, notwithstanding escalating inflation.

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