oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - The first of May : do workers have anything to celebrate in South Africa twenty years into democracy?

Volume 24 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



The fight for workers’ rights and other conditions of service in employment has been an on-going process for a number of decades. Unions have been at the forefront of driving this fight against stiff resistance from employers, especially prior to 1994. However, after the demise of apartheid, we have seen labour contributing immensely to the development of workers’ rights in a few ways. First, the involvement of labour at the National Economic Development and Labour Council has ensured that matters affecting workers or their inputs are taken into account when Parliament legislates on issues affecting them. And, secondly, the participation of unions in the creation of collective agreements ensures that workers play a vital role in the creation of codes of conduct that regulate terms and conditions in the workplace. In areas where unions have successfully managed to address issues affecting workers these have been made known and is believed to be celebrated during the International Workers Day. The celebration of this day is not only limited to achievements or successes that unions and workers have achieved over the years, but labour can also use these kinds of celebrations to reflect on the gaps and shortfalls in their attempts to uplift the lives of workers. It is acknowledged that great improvements have been made in the area of labour law such as the proposed National Minimum Wage and various pieces of legislation and amendments to existing ones. However, it is clear that the journey of liberating workers is not near the end as unions and workers still face huge challenges of eradicating wage inequality in employment, inequality for work of equal value, the issue of safety in the workplace, labour brokering, the e-tolling system in the Gauteng roads, and many more.

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