adapt or die
The end of unions?
Trade unions were once a powerful force. Now they are on the wane for a variety of reasons. These include the changing world of work, fragmentation and labour market forces beyond their control, business unionism, greater competition – and corruption. Yet the largest federation, Cosatu, still has political sway through its alliance with the ANC. But the rate of the decline raises the question: how long will its clout last?
It was slightly before 2am on November 8 2014 when the course of trade unionism in SA fundamentally shifted. It was late spring, balmy during the day, but there was an unmistakable chill in the air that night as journalists camped in their cars outside Cosatu’s smart, but allegedly controversially procured, new headquarters in Braamfontein, Joburg.
Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), emerged from behind the huge glass doors; the reporters scrambled for their equipment to catch the verdict, finally, of Cosatu’s central executive committee on its obstreperous and largest affiliate, Numsa.