Workplace politicisation – a serious threat to labour stability & the peace obligation?


Dr Ivor Blumenthal | CEO | ArkKonsult | mail me |

Those of us who operate in a wide range of workplaces – across all sectors and industries – will have noticed a sea change in the volume and nature of collective industrial action.

Work stoppages, illegal strikes, go-slows and massive amounts of peer-to-peer intimidation amongst employee’s, especially unionised workers, have increased.

Politics at work

Recently COSATU, via a press conference, threatened to move away from the ANC in the upcoming Local Government elections. They expressed that the South African Communist Party (SACP) could have COSATU support to contest elections against the ANC.

None of this is new. It is the precise rhetoric that ensues before any local or national election. Strategically, COSATU’s tried-and-tested formula is designed to ensure that the ANC forks-out the majority of influential seats and positions to a combination of SACP and COSATU politburo representatives and members. This strategy is so that these two strategic partners, in the Tri-Partite relationship with the ANC, are content never to go it alone.

COSATU maintains that it can galvanise a block workplace vote that assures ANC success at the polls. This was certainly true after 1994. However, as COSATU Union membership numbers dwindle and more and more trade union competitors appear to contest for workplace membership, COSATU’S desperation is evidenced by increasing militancy against any-and-all apparent targets.

What really goes on at the workplace?

Let’s accept that the workplace is ideal for collective political campaigns to be launched and left to run.

Let’s acknowledge that it is at the workplace where captive employees are herded like unthinking sheep by the political overlords of these Trade Unions into block-voting. The mass psychology of groupthink prevails and where common sense and the constitutional right to freedom of association or disassociation are trampled on by COSATU, ANC and SACP Generals.

Let’s acknowledge that when a workplace releases employees to Shop Steward training, under COSATU’S training division, it is paying employee’s to fetch materials and ideas for the workforce’s politicisation. The result is that the Shop Stewards are driving the political campaigns of their masters and are spending little time building their capacity to represent their constituencies better.

If this is the case, then we have also to accept that these strategies are

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