The newly launched trade union grouping in South Africa - the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) — promises to be a voice for the growing numbers of unorganised and marginalised workers in the country. But, as the secretary of the South African Informal Traders Alliance warned delegates, "don’t break our hearts with false promises". Historically, trade unions in South Africa have played a significant role in shaping the political landscape, especially during the struggle against apartheid. But the union movement has declined globally in influence as the growing informalisation of work has eroded its power and unions are seen as protecting the special interests of those in regular employment. With increasing numbers of people outside the formal employment net, unions have had a tough time defining their role. Yet the rights won by South African workers in the struggle for democracy continues to give them a degree of influence unsurpassed in post-colonial Africa. The new...

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