Corporatism and collective bargaining in a democratic South Africa

12 Oct 2013

Introduction:The theme of 'emerging models of worker participation and representation' is uniquely appropriate in relation to South Africa today. In February 1995 a draft labour statute, designed to replace the existing Labour Relations Act and corresponding statutes applicable to the public, education and agricultural sectors, was published One of its more radical innovations is the proposal for a system of worker participation by means of elected bodies to be known as 'workplace forums'. The draft law has turned out to be controversial, and at the time of writing it is not clear what its fate will eventually be. Inter alia, the chapter on workplace forums has reportedly encountered opposition from trade unions as well as employers. Debate of this nature, however, is integral to the emergence of new industrial relations models. This article will attempt to evaluate the proposed system of worker participation and to explore some of its implications which may be of interest internationally. In particular, it will focus on the envisaged relationship between workplace forums and trade unions - a question that will be crucial to the success or failure of the project.