The impact of globalisation on trade unions : Cosatu’s present and future engagement in international issues

Nepgen, Arnold (2008-03)

Thesis (MA (Political Science. International Studies))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


The effects of ‘accelerated globalisation’ can not be denied when observing modern innovations shaping human life. Its development and consequent revolutionary impact is unlike any other in modern history. The last half of the twentieth century witnessed changes in exponential terms, such as informational and technological innovations that constantly redefine the way people function. This study focuses on the effect of globalisation on trade unions, paying particular attention to the formation of liberal economic conditions, the rise of global capital flows, and the diversification of workers, working conditions and employment patterns. Globalisation has led to the formation of new social, economic, and political conditions which have made it increasingly difficult for trade unions to function in traditional ways. At the heart of this lies the fundamental opposition of capital to labour, and increasingly so under conditions of global competition. Trade unions, are organisations that represent worker interests through solidarity and strength in numbers, traditionally at the national level but increasingly they are being challenged on a global level. Thus, due to various internal and external factors, the situation many unions find themselves in is one of survival instead of growth and influence. The case study of Cosatu was chosen due to the benefit of analysing the organisation’s past success as well as present situation. Although it has not been unaffected by the problems facing unions worldwide, it has managed to achieve some notable successes in the process. The practice of social movement unionism has been highly effective in mobilising under-represented groups, and is found to still be effective in South Africa, although at a diminished scale. It is imperative for all unions to restructure the way they function so as to incorporate previously marginalised groups, to utilise technology and globalisation to their advantage, and to educate potential new entrants to the labour market.

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