'Strikes not wise decision'

ECONOMISTS warned that trade federation Cosatu's threat to embark on a strike in defence of possible job losses was "counter-productive" since strikes also contribute to job cuts.

This came after Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told journalists after the National Union of Metalworkers of SA's conference in Johannesburg yesterday that if the Section 77, or notice to strike application, which would be submitted to the National Economic Development and Labour Council today, yielded no results, the workers federation would embark on an indefinite strike which might include the 2010 Soccer World Cup period.

Neren Rau, chief executive of the SA Chamber of Commerce & Industry, whose organisation came up with the 250000 potential job loss estimation as a result of electricity hikes, said a strike might "heighten" economic tensions between Nedlac partners at a "time when they need to be in partnership and not at odds with one another".

Rau said: "We strongly advocate against any improper conduct from labour and political parties during the World Cup as this event serves as a premier opportunity to attract new investors who might not have considered SA before." He predicted a "notable recovery" in employment by late 2010 but cautioned that strikes would "postpone" such recovery.

"We would encourage the stakeholders in the economy to look at the longer-term consequences of their decisions," Rau said.

Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart agreed with Cosatu's analysis that a 25percent electricity price hike would result in job losses but warned that a lack of electricity would also cause job losses. He said industrial action usually affect investor confidence and warned that the situation would worsen during the global soccer spectacle.

"We need more practical solutions rather than resorting to confrontation politics," Hart said.

"If the 25percent reflects in people's electricity bills by the end of April, we will organise a series of stay-aways and rolling mass actions," Vavi told journalists.

Numsa delegates also pledged their support to Cosatu if the strike option was considered.