Tripartite Relationship

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SOUTH AFRICAN LABOUR: A TRIPARTITE RELATIONSHIP?
G.M. Ferreira Department of Public Administration and Management UNISA

ABSTRACT

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his article contains an overview of the complex network of labour relations dynamics and organizational flow in the new legislative landscape of labour relations. It sketches the hierarchy and protocol of the different protagonists in the labour market and explains the number of principles and influences amidst the myriad of legislative and ad hoc regulatory precepts. It also touches on the impact the general rights of workers and their representative bodies have on the economic forces and health. The article stipulates the sensitive, yet core role that the government has to play in attempting to reach an equitable balance of interests. The article focuses on the three parties in labour relations, the parties to the employment relationship and their respective roles. A general overview of corporatism is also provided.

INTRODUCTION
new legal framework for labour relations was put in place after the 1994 elections and the birth of a democratic political dispensation. This had an influence on business and the social partners in the workplace. Labour relations includes all aspects of collective and individual relationships between employers and employees. The state is also involved as a third party to this relationship. The tripartite relationship consists of a primary relationship between the employer and employee, and a secondary relationship between the state and the employer and employee. This relationship has a very important influence on South African politics and economics. The role and place of the different parties to the tripartite relationship will be discussed in the following paragraphs. The discussion starts with the state’s role in the relationship. The role of employees as individuals and as members of trade unions in a combined effort will be considered. The development of the legal rights of public servants will be discussed. The other party

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Journal of Public Administration • Vol 40 no 3.2 • November 2005

to the relationship, the employer and employer organizations and associations, will be investigated. The labour movement became involved in the economic and social decision-making of the country through an institutional framework; this corporatism in policy processes and decision-making will also be discussed.

THE THREE PARTIES IN LABOUR RELATIONS
abour relations is the umbrella term to describe the dynamic complexities of the relationships between parties to the employment relationship (Venter 2003:3), namely a theoretical and practical framework by means of which the relationship between the employee and employer, or between the collective institution (such as the trade union, employers’ organizations and the state) and individuals, or between one collective body and another, is regulated and governed. Using the term labour relations, instead of industrial relations, is a way of describing the tripartite employment relationship. The term labour relations reflects to a greater extent the realities of the employment relationship in the post-industrialisation era (Venter 2003:3). The labour relationship is generally perceived as an arena for conflict and conflict management, and is underscored by a climate of strike action in countries such as South Africa. However, this relationship between employees and employers is symbiotic, because of the interdependence among the three parties, who rely on each other for the realization of their respective aspirations, whether work- or non-work related. The employment relationship must be regulated to enable all parties to work in a free and sound environment. The tripartite nature of the labour relationship deals with interaction between three core players, namely employees, employers and the state. These interactions are dynamic, and occur within a particular social, economic and political framework. Labour...
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