Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
The State of Trade Unionism in South Africa 415
EDWARD WEBSTER and SAKHELA BUHLUNGU The State of Trade Unionism in South Africa 1. Introduction During the 1980s and early 1990s the South African trade union movement emerged as a model of a militant and progressive move- ment simultaneously improving the wages and working conditions of its members while engaged in a successful struggle for democracy against the apartheid regime (Buhlungu 2006). However with the tran- sition to democracy and processes of elite formation in post-apartheid South Africa, this combination of workplace and community struggle – labelled social movement unionism – has undergone an ‘erosion as solidarity has fractured along new and old lines’ (Von Holdt 2002). The advent of democracy has opened up new opportunities for the labour movement both to consolidate its organisational gains and to win further concessions from employers and the state. The first of these concessions was the creation in 1994 of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). This was followed in 1995 by the new Labour Relations Act, which established the right to strike and to organise at plant level and created the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). In addition, the new government confronted the legacy of the apartheid regime by intro- ducing a Skills Development Act to accelerate skill development and an Employment Equity Act to provide equal opportunities for pre- viously disadvantaged sections of the workforce. The institutional innovations that flow from this new labour regime created a new terrain for labour. Concurrent with these changes, labour was confronted with...
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