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Trade Unions and Democracy in South Africa: Union Organizational Challenges and Solidarities in a Time of Transformation


  • Sakhela Buhlungu
  • Mick Brookes
  • Geoffrey Wood


Based on a nationwide survey, this article focuses on the perceptions of Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) members on two of the central issues that have dominated debates on the South African labour movement: the advisability of COSATU's Alliance with the African National Congress (ANC) and the extent of internal union democracy. The survey revealed that the ANC-Alliance continues to enjoy mass support, while internal democracy remains robust. At the same time, the federation faces the challenges of coping with - and contesting - neoliberal reforms, retaining and re-energizing rank and file in the post-apartheid era, and in reaching out to potential members in the informal sector and other areas of insecure work. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2008.

Suggested Citation

  • Sakhela Buhlungu & Mick Brookes & Geoffrey Wood, 2008. "Trade Unions and Democracy in South Africa: Union Organizational Challenges and Solidarities in a Time of Transformation," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 46(3), pages 439-468, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:46:y:2008:i:3:p:439-468

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eddy Donnelly & Stephen Dunn, 2006. "Ten Years After: South African Employment Relations Since the Negotiated Revolution," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 44(1), pages 1-29, March.
    2. Philip Taft, 1944. "Opposition to Union Officers in Elections," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 246-264.
    3. Tove H. Hammer & David L. Wazeter, 1993. "Dimensions of Local Union Effectiveness," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(2), pages 302-319, January.
    4. Joel Seidman, 1953. "Democracy in Labor Unions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 221-221.
    5. Karl von Holdt, 2002. "Social Movement Unionism: the Case of South Africa," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 16(2), pages 283-304, June.
    6. Lewis,Jon, 1984. "Industrialisation and Trade Union Organization in South Africa, 1924–1955," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521263122, March.
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    1. Xing, Yijun & Liu, Yipeng & Tarba, Shlomo Yedidia & Cooper, Cary L., 2016. "Intercultural influences on managing African employees of Chinese firms in Africa: Chinese managers’ HRM practices," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 28-41.

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