Small enterprises, Industrial Relations and the RDP

12 Jun 2013

Introduction: The small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) sector spans an immense sweep of economic activity, from entirely non-regulated to entirely regulated businesses, 'from the survivalist activities of informal sector hawkers to high-tech manufacturing enterprises employing fewer than 200 workers'. It comprises, in reality, a multitude of subsectors of different branches of the economy, each with its own specific issues, problems and potentialities. In addressing the issue of industrial relations, it will be neither appropriate nor fruitful to try to deal with this multifaceted 'sector' in its entirety. In the first place, most informal enterprises are conducted by single individuals, families or partnerships and do not involve employment relationships in the normal meaning of the term. In the second place, much informal activity is conducted by unemployed persons seeking merely to maintain themselves until jobs become available. Such enterprises are transient and difficult to target or track for purposes of industrial relations policy. Thirdly, structured collective labour relations as we know them are in many respects premised on the realities of larger workplaces and may be less appropriate to workplaces employing only one, two or a handful of people.