The political economy of labour market flexibility in South Africa

Mathekga, Mmanoko Jerry (2009-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The impact of globalisation can be found in every aspect of human life. Globalisation has also brought about changes in the world of work, such as the call for labour market flexibility, which has restructured the workplace. This study focuses on the implications of labour market flexibility for workers in South Africa and for trade unions, within the context of the introduction of a macroeconomic neoliberal policy in South Africa in 1996. The study examines the changing nature of employment and work in a company in the South African retail sector, namely Pick n Pay. Labour market flexibility comes about as companies try to compete and cut costs at the expense of workers. This implies a reduction of protection and benefits and has resulted in the creation of a ‘working poor’ labour segment. Trade unions have been ineffective in providing a voice and representation for the new working poor. This study argues that under conditions of economic globalisation, trade unions are disempowered and flexible labour market practices are introduced to cut costs in order to maintain market share and increase competitiveness. Economic globalisation has pressurised the South African government, and the African National Congress (ANC), to shift gradually to the right and to adopt a neoliberal macroeconomic policy. This has led to an increase in inequality, unemployment, new forms of insecure jobs and the creation of an informal economy. This study found that instead of creating jobs and alleviating poverty, the government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR) has resulted in retrenchments, downsizing and restructuring. The unemployed, retrenched and working poor find themselves in the ‘second economy’. The retail sector in particular makes use of labour market flexibility in order to compete for market share. Pick n Pay is an example of a retail company that increasingly makes use of flexible labour market practices. This study found that labour market flexibility has created a situation that trade unions find difficult to deal with, and that labour market flexibility has been accompanied by increasing inequality, which overlaps with race and gender identities. Furthermore, Pick n Pay maintains flexible employment under conditions of increased productivity and contrary to labour legislation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Impak van globalisering kan in elke aspek van mense se lewens waargeneem word. Globalisering het verandering in die wêreld van werk teweeggebring, soos die aandrang op arbeidsmarkbuigsaamheid wat tot die herstrukturering van die werkersmag gelei het. Hierdie studie fokus op die implikasie van arbeidsmarkbuigsaamheid vir werkers in Suid‐ Afrika, en die implikasie vir vakbonde in die konteks van die inwerkingstelling van ’n makroekonomiese neo‐liberale beleid in Suid‐Afrika in 1996. Verder ondersoek die studie die verandering in die aard van indiensneming en werk in ’n Suid‐Afrikaanse maatskappy in die kleinhandelsektor, naamlik Pick n Pay. Buigsaamheid in die arbeidsmag ontstaan wanneer besighede in ’n poging om kompeterend te wees, uitgawes ten koste van werkers besnoei. Dit bring die vermindering van beskerming en voordele mee, wat tot ’n arbeidsegment van ‘arm werkers’ lei. Vakbonde kon nie ’n stem en verteenwoordiging aan hierdie nuwe segment van arm werkers gee nie. Hierdie studie voer aan dat ekonomiese globalisering werkersunies magteloos laat terwyl buigsame arbeidsmarkpraktyke aangewend word om kostes te sny ten einde markaandeel en verhoogde kompetisie te verseker. Ekonomiese globalisasie plaas meer druk op die Suid‐Afrikaanse regering, die African National Congress (ANC), om ‘n verskuiwing na regs te maak en ’n neo‐liberale makroekonomiese beleid te volg. Dit het gelei tot verhoging in ongelykheid, werkloosheid, nuwe vorme van onsekere werksgeleenthede, en die skepping van ’n informele ekonomie. Die studie bevind dat die regering se Groei, Indiensnemings‐ en Herdistribusiebeleid (GEAR), wat veronderstel was om werk te skep en werkloosheid te verminder, eerder tot meer afdankings, afskaling en herstrukturering gelei het. Die werklose, afgedankte en armwerkerskorps bevind hulself nou in ’n ‘tweede ekonomie’. In die besonder maak die kleinhandelsektor gebruik van arbeidsmarkbuigsaamheid om vir ’n deel van die mark te kompeteer. Pick n Pay is ’n voorbeeld van ’n kleinhandelmaatskappy wat toenemend gebruik maak van arbeidsmarkbuigsaamheid. Die studie kom tot die slotsom dat arbeidsmarkbuigsaamheid ’n situasie geskep het wat vakbonde verlam het, en wat met ’n verhoging in ongelykheid wat verder met ras en geslagsidentiteite oorvleuel, gepaardgaan. daarby maak Pick n Pay gebruik van buigsaame indiensnemingspraktyke onder omstandighede van verhoogde produktiwiteit, in weerwil van arbeidswetgewing

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1532
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