AN overseas visitor or potential investor reading the local press over the past month may be forgiven for thinking that South Africa had a very low unemployment rate, that our workers were very productive and lived within their means, and the trade unions were reasonable and acted in the best interests of their members. In essence, the plethora of strikes is the result of these hard working and productive workers trying to grab a bit more of the company "profit" rather than earn a "living" wage.
Unfortunately the poor person would be wrong on all counts. The country has an extremely high unemployment rate, productivity is not close to any of our competitor nations, the workers do not live within their means, and the demands made by the trade unions make no sense and are completely unreasonable given current market conditions and rate of inflation.
Latest figures show that the average worker spends around 70% of his or her disposable income on servicing debt and it is therefore not surprising that they cannot come out on their wages. The government now comes to the party and wants to have a moratorium on existing defaulters and erase poor credit records to allow these historically poor credit risks access to credit again.
On the strike front there is probably little that the motor and mining companies can do to alleviate the problem, but I am sure that retrenchments and further mechanisation in both industries will follow. One of the recent strikes is one by the petrol attendants.
I suggest that petrol stations become "self service" – this will save on personnel costs and the station owners won't have the annual strike headache. They help themselves to petrol in the UK and most other developed countries, so why don't we?
Another couple of thousand people will be added to the unemployed list, but who cares – the unions don't seem to!
Trevor Davies, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth