n Acta Juridica - Prisoners of a paradigm : labour broking, the 'new services' and non-standard employment

Volume 2012, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



Labour broking, as temporary agency work is commonly known in South Africa, has become the most contentious form of non-standard employment - with the premier trade union federation calling for it to be banned. Utilising a case study of a labour broker engaged by a transport service, this contribution illustrates why meeting this call is easier said than done: it is conceptually difficult to disentangle labour broking from what are termed the 'new services'.

At the same time it is problematic to categorise labour broking as representing non-standard employment, without acknowledging the fundamental differences between this form of employment and those forms of non-standard employment in which there are only two parties involved. The situation in which a client who provides the work is not legally accountable for the conditions under which an agency's workers perform the work is incompatible with the employment paradigm on which our system of labour relations is premised.
This problem of incompatibility is not resolved by providing legal techniques to create accountability - such as making the client jointly and severally liable with the agency. So long as the workplace of the agency's worker continues to be regarded as the workplace of his employer, the agency, rather than the workplace of the client, the problem of incompatibility remains unresolved. This is because the workplace is the foundation on which workers are able to exercise organisational rights, and bargain collectively. A new paradigm for the regulation of labour relations will emerge in the same way the present system of labour relations did: by 'regulation from below', by means of workers' organisations and by collective bargaining.

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