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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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The State of Trade Unionism in South Africa 415

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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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