Big firms lose a day

Lihle Z Mtshali

Lihle Z Mtshali

Mines and vehicle manufacturers bore the brunt of yesterday's Cosatu-led one-day stayaway, with some mines reporting 91percent absenteeism.

Among mining companies gold producers were the hardest hit, with the biggest mines losing close to 95kg of production - similar to the losses experienced on the first day of Eskom's five-day power cut to mines in January.

Export-reliant vehicle makers Volkswagen SA, Ford and Mercedez Benz wrote off production for the day.

Volkswagen said the stayaway had cost it 300 to 400 vehicles, while Ford said it produced around 540 vehicles a day and Mercedes around 200.

Keith Brebnor, chief executive of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said although the chamber sympathised with Cosatu and its members, this was out of the hands of business.

"Is there no other way of dealing with this without battering the economy?" he asked.

"Of utmost importance is the effect this stayaway has on international trade affiliates and SA's reliability as a global trading partner. We are sitting on the cusp of very important times for South Africa and we need to keep production going so that our trade deficit can go down."

Gold Fields, one of the country's top three gold producers, said 91 percent of underground night and morning shifts at its Kloof operations were absent from work.

Daniel Thole, spokesperson for Gold Fields, said it was "too early to assess the impact on production", but added typical daily production at Kloof was about 95kg.

Harmony Gold Mining did not totally shut down production, but even with contractors at work at some of the operations, it said between 30kg and 32kg of gold would have been lost.

Cosatu, which has a 1,8million strong membership base across the country, marched in Johannesburg, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and North West yesterday.

This was part of its nationwide protest against a jump in food, fuel and electricity prices.

But, Neren Rau, chief executive of the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the stayaway would have unintended results, with the loss of production forcing businesses to raise prices to recoup their costs. - With I-Net Bridge