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Once-Powerful South African Unions Hurt by Strife, Job Cuts

  • Largest union group Cosatu loses almost 400,000 members
  • Ruling ANC party denies labor allies have been sidelined
Updated on

Once one of South Africa’s most powerful political forces, the labor movement is floundering as infighting and job losses deplete its ranks and the governing African National Congress rides roughshod over union demands for policy change.

The main labor federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, has seen membership slump from a peak of 2.19 million four years ago to 1.8 million, following the expulsion of its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, for withdrawing electoral support from the ANC. Now a decision by mining companies, including Anglo American Plc’s Kumba Iron Ore unit, to fire about 32,000 workers because of plunging commodity prices will add to a 25.5 percent jobless rate and strip unions of more members and their dues.