Are trade unions losing the bite?

Yesterday’s turnout also illustrated that the trade unions’ method of promoting their socio-economic agenda, is ineffective. A survey conducted among employers by the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA), indicated that 66 percent of companies were not in any way affected by the protest action.

Although 23 percent of the companies that were affected experienced complete absenteeism (effectively 7.8 percent of all employers), the average level of absenteeism of all companies affected was approximately 50 percent.

This figure may even be inflated due to the ongoing national bus strike.

The underwhelming turnout, in support of a federation who claims membership of 800 000 employees, confirms that 75 percent of South African workers have lost confidence and interest in trade unions, realising that their destiny cannot be determined by rhetoric, unrealistic demands and economically hostile policies.

Increasingly workers are realising that their future lies in consistent hard work and taking responsibility for their own destiny. It is also true that workers in general realise the importance of protecting their jobs, especially in an increasingly competitive and shrinking labour market. It is an international trend.

Furthermore, it may indicate that employees are increasingly realising that the unrealistic demands by trade unions are unobtainable in the current economic climate and consequently may be of the view that trade unions no longer add value.

Higher levels of education among the youth may also contribute to their ability and desire to negotiate for themselves.

Trade unions are under immense pressure to retain, let alone increase, membership.

This trend is set to continue.

This report was prepared by Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA).

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