Today's Labour News

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newsFin24 reports that SA trade union membership decreased by half a million in the year to end March, with 10 unions deregistering over the course of the year.

Membership fell almost 11% to 3.96 million, according to statistics from the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL). This was the biggest drop in union membership since 2004/5 when 934,135 trade union members left. According to trade unions, increased job losses and a move of employees to the informal sector prompted the decline. However, in the view of experts, the decrease in union membership has revealed a weakening influence of trade unions as members become disillusioned by continuous strikes. Labour expert Andrew Levy commented: “Workers have become disenchanted with strikes because they lose their much-needed pay or wages. Some have said they no longer want to lose their income and have no interest in their union disputes.” According to Levy, declining membership and decreased influence of trade unionism has been experienced worldwide, not just SA. However, he added that "smokestack" industries, such as mining, steel and the vehicle manufacturing, as well as the public sector, would continue to have a strong union membership. Levy also pointed out that many sectors had been hit by retrenchments and job losses. Thembinkosi Mkalipi, chief director of labour policy at the DEL, commented: “One of the biggest contributors is the weakness of trade unions in the service to their members. The lack of skills and capacity in trade union leadership causes the lack of service, which drives workers away, with the lack of membership also increasing the weakness of trade unions.” Cosatu’s Matthew Parks said membership had stabilised for the federation at about 1.6 million, but some individual unions had experienced a decline in membership due to retrenchments and job losses. Saftu’s Trebor Shaku said the federation had lost 250,000 members since Covid-19, and there was a fear that membership would continue to decline.

  • Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Na'ilah Ebrahim at Fin24

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