LABOUR: 600 000 Affected By Shorter Work Hours
Recent Western Cape Business News
Thousands of employees have already been affected by the retrenchment crisis since October last year, according to the calculations of the trade union Solidarity, whether through retrenchments or job freezes. In addition, the working hours of thousands of employees have now been reduced. There are 608 000 employees in South Africa who previously worked more than 45 hours per week but who have been working shorter hours since the second quarter of 2008.
This reduction of employees’ working hours is largely part of companies’ strategy to ensure cost saving, Solidarity said today. Several companies have also already implemented measures involving shorter working days or working weeks, often in an effort to avert looming retrenchments.
A working week of 45 hours or more is considered to be the norm for full-day employees who work at least nine hours per day. According to Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans, Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey shows that 4 691 000 South Africans worked more than 45 hours per week in the second quarter of 2008.
According to the latest figures that were released last week and contains labour statistics for the second quarter of 2009, the number of employees who worked more than 45 hours per week in the past year dropped by more than 13% to only 4 083 000. In addition, the figure declined by more than 198 000 people, or 4,6%, in the last quarter alone.
“The significant drop in the number of employees who still work more than 45 hours per week can mainly be attributed to companies’ efforts to buffer the effect of the economic pressure on their cash flow,” Kleynhans explained. “Although the implementation of shorter working days and weeks instead of retrenchment is welcomed, it nevertheless places tremendous pressure on South African workers, who now receive smaller salaries but still have to pay the same monthly expenses.”
The metal and engineering industry, where a substantial number of retrenchments have taken place, has been at the forefront of implementing the practice of short-time since the economic crisis struck at the end of last year. In the period from February to April this year, the industry has already received more than 283 Section 189 notices for the retrenchment of more than 6 870 employees while 188 Section 189 notices were issued in the sector in 2008, which affected 2 065 employees. As far as short-time is concerned, the industry has been under immense pressure. In 2008, nearly 40 600 employees were affected by the implementation of short-time, while 1 663 notices of short-time were issued from February to April this year, which have affected almost 47 200 employees in the industry.
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