Presentation on theme: "Unions, representivity and organising strategies Presentation to National Association of Bargaining Councils 20 August 2010 Kimani Ndungu Senior Researcher."— Presentation transcript:
Unions, representivity and organising strategies Presentation to National Association of Bargaining Councils 20 August 2010 Kimani Ndungu Senior Researcher National Labour and Economic Development Institute
Union membership Source: ILO, Key Labour Market Indicators, 2009; QLFS, July 2010.
Reality: Declining union membership Trade union membership has been declining since at least 2003 when union membership stood at a high of 4,1 million members. As shown by the figure above, union membership in 2008 stood at around 3,3 million having increased slightly from from 3,0m in 2006. Decline in union membership is due to a range of factors but on the main: –Rise in non-standard forms of employment (casualisation, externalisation & informalisation). –Increasing mechanisation and computerisation of production processes. –The recent global economic crisis which has led to a massive lay-off of workers. Since the first quarter of 2009 when the SA economy officially entered into a recession (Stats SA, GDP, Quarter 1, 2009: 5), almost 1,2 million jobs have been lost, the majority of them in the six months period between January and September 2009 (QLFS, Quarter 2, 2010:vi). With loss of jobs comes loss of income and the possibility that many union members have simply been unable to maintain their membership fees. No. of registered trade unions has also been declining from a high of 504 in 2003 to a low of 202 in 2010 (approx a 60% decline). Union membership is central to the acquisition of organisational rights in the LRA hence representivity and consequently the right to engage in collective bargaining.
New challenges to union organising The changing profile of union membership: –According to a COSATU Workers Survey conducted by NALEDI in 2006, the skill levels of workers who are members of COSATU has changed over time: –25% of COSATU members are professionals (with degrees). –21% are semi-skilled production workers. –13% are elementary workers. –According to the same survey, the sectors which predominate in COSATU have also changed: –40% of members are in the public services. –25% are in manufacturing. –14% are in mining. –14% are in private services.
New challenges to union organising These changes mean that unions have to respond to different types of workers who have different organisational needs and demands. At the same time, unions are not recruiting workers in non-standard employment relationships (casuals, labour broker workers and informal workers) despite the fact that this has been a rapidly growing segment of the labour force. In addition, young people continue to be significantly under- represented in trade unions, making only 15% of union membership
Rethinking organising strategies 1.Unions need to strategically target who they want to organise. 2.When unions go out to recruit workers, they have to carefully think through the organisational implications. Some of the factors to be taken into account include: –Do the unions have the resources to service and thus fully organise these workers? – Will the new workers feel that the union is their home, or will they be alienated by the dominant styles and attitudes of the traditional membership? 3.It may be necessary for unions to consider employing new organisers who match the demographic profile of those they are trying to organise, e.g. for women workers, young workers, migrant workers casual workers, labour broker workers, farm workers and domestic workers.
Rethinking organising strategies- Some approaches A number of new approaches that unions may want to consider include: –Community- based organising: where unions organise through communities in addition to organising in the workplaces. –Differential membership fee with full membership rights- e.g. unions should find ways of cross-subsidising NSE workers. They should continue to represent them fully although such workers may not be paying a differential membership fee. –Alternative union structures and meeting times: new categories of workers need to be fully integrated into union leadership structures. For instance, they need to become shop stewards and office bearers in the union. E.g. SACCAWU has been electing casual workers as shop stewards. –Building locals as organising/service centres. One way of doing this is to pool affiliate resources to employ generalist organisers in areas that are hard to reach.
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