Challenges Faced by Trade Unions

4 April 2017

“Black labour unions in south Africa are of great value to policy makers who recognize that the industrial work force has often served as a catalyst for political progress and social change in the developing world. It was not uncommon for leaders of the independence movements to have come out of the ranks of organized labor, the trade unions were training grounds and early vehicles of political expression as they were often the only form of organized activity permitted by the colonial authorities. . (Freeman & Bendahmane 1978, p. 1) INTRODUCTION The South African history is one that has had a dramatic influence on all its citizens, socially, politically and economically. The difficulties faced by south Africans during oppression and the apartheid era have made south Africans the way they are today in terms of knowing their rights and how to fight for such rights.

There were massive political movements that were formed by activists who wanted to fight for the rights of all black workers within the labor market. The trade unions played an important role towards the development of new legislation laws that favored not only the white population but also the blacks Indians and colored’s . The South African economy was weakened by punishment, and sheltered by the apartheid government’s protectionist policies. This has created certain challenges for organized labour.

Challenges Faced by Trade Unions Essay Example

On one hand, the South African trade union movement maintained a significant following and organizational continuity in recent years combined with union decline, and enjoys an unique degree of political influence on account of its alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). On the other hand, it has had to battle with a decreasing combination of possible employers as a result of increasing retrenchments and restructuring, particularly in fundamental areas of the economy such as the metal and mining industries. he challenge is to retain the integrity of a union voice whilst continuing to compromise where necessary with both state and capital. A: Unions/labour legislation. Apart from crime and the issue of education and training, in my view the single most important immediate reason for increasing unemployment is the set of interlocking labour laws that have been introduced in recent years, together with the militant behaviour of the trade unions.

Because of the Labour Relations Act, The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and the Employment Equity Act, employers cannot employ the best person for the job without potential interference of a government officials, and – most importantly – cannot get rid of people who are not turning up for work, are performing badly, are stealing, or are undermining the functioning of the organisation in other ways, without a costly, time consuming, and very aggravating process often involving labour lawyers, labour courts, and arbitration.

The Minister of Labour claims that such interference in the employment process and the resulting `labour market inflexibility’ has not been proved to be a significant factor in increasing unemployment.

I can only assume he has not adequately talked to the people who create employment, and in particular those who have decided not to do so in view of the onerous burdens placed on anyone wishing to create employment – and is for example ignoring the fact that the Government itself has asked to be exempted from the provisions of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (see Business Report, Friday May 5th, 2000) because of the way they inhibit getting the job done.

The phrase `labour market inflexibility’ does not begin to describe the aggravation of being treated as a criminal by a labour lawyer when one has not fulfilled the law to the letter, in the case of an employee who is drunk on the job and should face immediate dismissal for dereliction of duty .

The entrepreneur trying to run a profitable business can find himself or herself spending many days and indeed in some cases months involved with labour courts and arguing the toss with people who simply do not do the work for which they are paid; apart from the aggravation and effort involved, this causes major loss of valuable time, preventing one from getting on with the real job at hand. The outcome is inevitable: a choice to replace labour by mechanisation wherever possible.

There is an iron-clad law involved: the more difficult it is to dismiss someone who is not doing the work they are paid to do, the less likely one is to employ anyone at all if there is any alternative route open. For example, a local entrepreneur was setting up a company to manufacture paper plates, and had the choice of employing 20 people in a low-tech but satisfactory approach, or investing R1. 25m on a high-tech machine from Taiwan that would carry out the task, in this case employing only two people.

In view of the above factors, he chose the latter route. Why then have these laws been introduced? A likely suggestion is that the Department of Labour is dominated by ex-trade unionists who have never created a job in their lives and so have not had to face the risks entrepreneurs take in so doing, but now largely control the shape of these labour laws. Now there certainly is a need for laws to protect workers from major exploitation, but the laws we now have in place are not those laws.

They would be very suitable for a rich country like Switzerland or Sweden with a highly trained, disciplined, and highly motivated labour force – but that is precisely what we do not have, in the main. The essence of the current situation is that under pressure from the trade unions, the Government, through the Department of Labour, is providing an ever more privileged situation for the employed, at the expense of the unemployed. The Trade Unions themselves are acting strongly for the benefit of their own members alone, who are the labour aristocracy precisely because they are employed.

The union’s professed concern for the unemployed rings very hollow when one understands the impact of the laws they have been instrumental in shaping – it is the unemployed who bear the major cost of these laws, through the diminished possibility of their obtaining employment . Last year the Trade Unions engaged in `rolling mass action’ involving a series of strikes and public demonstrations to protest unemployment – while at the same time lobbying for even more onerous conditions to be put in place to block the dismissal of unproductive employees.

This activity is truly ironic – apart from the immediate effects of such strikes, inevitably leading to job losses due to lost . The government is aware that something needs to be done to break the stranglehold of these labour laws on entrepreneurial enterprises, but has not showed the resolution needed to get it done. Until they do, it is a safe bet that unemployment will continue to increase . The recently proposed changes to labour law make a marginal improvement in some areas, but these are balanced by negatives in other areas – they certainly are not the clear hange that could turn unemployment issue around. The situation is clearly stated in a quote from the Malamulela Social Movement for the Unemployed: “We know from experience in trying to find jobs for the unemployed that the sector most likely to offer employment to the poor and unskilled, small and medium enterprises, is constrained by that sector’s struggling efforts to comply with our current labour legislation.

We have for long suggested that the best way to remedy this is by allowing workers and employers in that sector to enter into voluntary agreements that are exempted from the onerous provisions of the labour legislation, and that take the interests of the worker and the small enterprise into account” (P C Mashego, Business Day 2001-02-21, page 14).

This view is supported by a highly pertinent quote from an employer in response to the presently announced changes: “My husband and I started our business 10 years ago and today employ about 80 people. We were full of enthusiasm and employed only unemployed people where possible, training them on the job. Sure they may have started on a low salary but if they were hard working and willing they were soon rewarded. If not, they were out. Today I hate coming to work. All we want to do is sell our business and start something that does not require labour. We fall under a bargaining council so wages, increases, hours, etc. are dictated to us and are non-negotiable. I spend much time on disciplinary action paperwork and stressing to managers that paperwork must be done. … Staff generally are aware of all their rights, but have no concept of the word obligation. They are convinced ?

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