Historical Overview of South Africa's Industrial Relations

Topics: South Africa, Strike action, Trade union Pages: 10 (3348 words) Published: April 18, 2013
South Africa reflects a diverse country, rich in history and encourages “ubuntu”. This philosophy encompasses the spirit of community which summarises the extent to which everyone is connected to one another. However controversial issues were prevalent during South Africa’s industrial relations history. Issues which stood out were Apartheid; which segregated the South African society by race and class, as well as political and labour conflict were also highly controversial issues during the past. South Africa’s industrial relations history and workers rights is complex. Therefore it is necessary to view South Africa’s industrial relations in terms of an industrial evolution and economic overview in order to fully grasp it effectively. As understanding South Africa’s industrial historical significance is crucial as it ultimately shaped the labour laws which currently exist. This essay will investigate the historical overview of South Africa’s industrial relations highlighting the most significant events which occurred within South Africa’s industrial history, in particular, the hey-day of the Apartheid era (1949-1973). The focus on this particular period will demonstrate the significance and impact it had on labour legislation and the industrial relations system in South Africa at that time. The National Party (NP), a new party within the South African government in 1948, institutionalised Apartheid as a central plank of South African government policy(Van Den Bergh& van Niekerk, 2009:55). Yet in the same year the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formed by the United Nations General Assembly. Even though South Africa was a United Nations member they continued to pursue their newly institutionalised government policy, Apartheid. The international community made efforts to persuade the South African government to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but their efforts were ignored. During the Apartheid era the National Party used its repressive legislation to legally enforce racial segregation. This was an attempt to protect the minority which existed in South Africa, white South Africans. Government had to find ways to handle the conflict. Hence the use of labour laws as controls mechanisms by government.

2. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA There were key events which occurred during the hey-day of the Apartheid era (1949-1973) which were highly significant. Labour laws, a popular control mechanism during Apartheid were heavily influenced by the events which took place during this period. These key events include the following: 2.1 BOTHA COMMISSION OF 1953

Soon after the National Party came into power, the Botha Commission was introduced. The purpose of the Botha Commission was to investigate existing labour legislation at that time. The Commission was introduced with the intension that it would outline the establishment of Apartheid in the working environment and continue the suppression of black people (van den Bergh& van Niekerk, 2009:64). 2.1.1 The significance the Botha Commission of 1953

The Botha Commission was a significant as it purely focused on labour relations matters in South Africa at that time. This was crucial as South Africa was experiencing harsh economic conditions. During the early days of Apartheid there was generally dissatisfaction among South Africans of all races. This was mainly due to the fact that jobs were scarce, and there was a high influx of black people in urban areas which caused unrest in the townships (Bendix, 2010:68). Therefore the Commission argued that if black people were able to have party representation it would ultimately lead to equality amongst races within South Africa. However this went completely against what the government believed. If government followed through with what the commission recommended it would be putting the white superiority at risk. 2.1.2 The impact the Botha Commission had on...
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