Trade Unions in South Africa and Argentina

Topics: Trade union, Nelson Mandela, Labour movement Pages: 12 (4292 words) Published: January 20, 2013

South Africa is a country that is crippled by the heritage of the apartheid, this is because the struggle for democracy was a long and exhausting one (Budeli, 2009: 68). Argentina also suffered among the hands of the military regime, as the lives of ordinary people was accompanied with hunger and a forceful government (Brysk, 1994: 1). The trade union movement has been pivotal in both of the countries, as the labour movements were able to mobilise towards better countries. In this essay, South Africa and Argentina's trade union struggles will be discussed through a political-economic and historical context, and the essay will portray how these two countries share similarities and differences.

South Africa:
The Nationalist Party, which was a result of many Afrikaners going against the Smuts government, came into power from 1948 to 1994 (Baskin, 1996: 209). The apartheid laws came into full swing in 1948, where racial discrimination became institutionalised, which simply means that the segregation between whites and non-whites was enforced by the apartheid government (Baskin, 1996: 209). These laws played a large role in dictating which races received employment, for example in many cases jobs would be reserved for whites only, and were greatly protected (Baskin, 1996: 211). Trade unions had to struggle with political and industrial relations when trying to fight for the rights of workers (Baskin, 1996: 210). In many cases African trade unions (Black, Indian and Coloured people) were not recognised and so it was a constant fight to try and get recognised as legitimate trade unions (Baskin, 1996: 210). In 1948, the Nationalist government, removed the Industrial Conciliation (Native) Bill that was in effect under the Smut government, and it introduced the Botha Commission (Baskin, 1996: 210). The Botha Commission was greatly criticised by the government as it gave African trade unions the ability to be recognised and to receive bargaining rights (Baskin, 1996: 210). The apartheid government rejected the application of acknowledging the African trade unions, due to the relations most of them had with the African National Congress (ANC), (Baskin, 1996: 211). This was because the ANC became one of the non-white political organisations that were going against the unjust laws that existed in apartheid South Africa (Baskin, 1996: 211).

In 1954 the Minister of Labour introduced the Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA), in order to gain greater solidarity from the white workers, TUCSA also made it clear that their association with African unions was non-existent in order to win over the majority of white conservatives (Baskin, 1996: 214). This brought rise to the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), also in 1954 (Baskin, 1996: 214). SACTU, made it clear that it was in opposition of the union and political strategies that existed within TUCSA, this was because SACTU posed a large threat to TUCSA, as they argued against the control of African trade unions (Baskin, 1996: 214). SACTU embarked on a journey and agenda that involved political mobilization of the African working class as they continuously became proletarianized by the apartheid government (Baskin, 1996: 214). But to importantly strengthen the political agenda by linking up with the ANC (Baskin, 1996: 214). In 1957, SACTU sent a number of invitations to TUCSA in order to discuss ways in which African unions can be recognised and that collective bargaining for Africans could be considered, even the Minister of Labour was often invited to these discussions and yet both the minister and TUCSA, rejected all the invitations (Baskin, 1996: 224). Examples of the invitations would be that of the local committee of SACTU, appealing to TUCSA for a joint meeting to discuss a statement made by the Minister of Labour about job reservation for semi-skilled and skilled workers, it also refused the invitation given, where SACTU asked for TUCSA's...

References: Baskin, J. 1991. Strking Back: A History of COSATU. Johannesburg: Raman Press.
Baskin, J. (ed). 1996. Against the Current: Labour and Economic Policy in South Africa. Naledi: Ravan Press.
Brysk, A. 1994. The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina: Protest, Change and Democratization. California: Standford University Press.
Budeli, M. 2009. “Workers ' right to freedom of association and trade unionism in South Africa: An historical perspective”. Fundamina. Vol. 15(2) pp. 57-74.
Cooper, D. 2011. “Locating South Africa in the third world: Comparative perspectives on patterns of industrialisation and political trade unionism in South America”. Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies.Vol. 17(2) pp. 1-40.
Di Tella, G., & Dornbusch, R. 1989. The Political Economy of Argentina 1946-1983. London: MacMillan Press.
Munck, R., Falcon, R., & Galitelli, B. Argentina: From Anarchism to Peronism: workers, unions and politics 1885-1985. New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd.
Webster, E. (ed). Essays in Southern African Labour History. Johannesburg: Raman Press.
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