The tech revolution is largely to blame for massive retrenchments, with the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) warning that it is only just the beginning.
Tabling the 2018/2019 annual report in Johannesburg on Monday CCMA director Cameron Morajane said they were kept busy by large-scale retrenchments in the construction, mining and metals sectors, which contributed to the 38 588 retrenchment notices referred to the commission during the year under review.
Through the CCMA’s discretionary jobs-saving function, Morajane said that of the 38 588 potential retrenchments, they managed to save 15 787 jobs; which equated to a success rate of about 41%.
“One job saved is important but to take it to 15 000 on a discretionary function is a remarkable achievement,” said Morajane.
This was as the economy was projected to grow 0.6% in 2019. The unemployment rate is 29%, and the expanded unemployment rate, which includes discouraged job-seekers, is at 38.5%.
Morajane said the causes of the retrenchments related to automation and artificial intelligence, and singled out the banking sector as the hardest hit industry by far.
“I can confirm that currently if we look at cases we dealt with, the biggest contributor is the fourth industrial revolution. The banking sector is the hardest hit because they use more automation which affects the bank branch approach. We have to make peace with the fact that the fourth industrial revolution is here. It is inevitable; we have to accept that reality,” he said.
In September the Labour Court interdicted trade union federation Cosatu and its affiliate the SA Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo) from embarking on a total shutdown of the banking sector.
The interdict prevented the more than 50 000 Sasbo members from protesting against job losses and retrenchments brought by the tech revolution.
“Do we foresee more retrenchments happening? Absolutely, even the president said prepare yourselves for a jobs bloodbath. Business has said they will continue with retrenchments. We do foresee more referrals,” Morajane said.
He stressed however that they only deal with issues that have been referred to them. There could be retrenchments that were happening “under the radar”, which contributed to the unemployment crisis.
A total of 193 000 cases were referred to the CCMA in the year under review, with the highest referring sector being business and professional services which accounted for 27%, followed by security with 12% and the retail sector at 11%.
The CCMA’s projection was that its case load would increase by about 20% during 2019/2020, as its scope had been expanded to deal with the national minimum wage and the basic conditions of employment act. BusinessLive