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Borrowing from Europe?: employers' views on associability and collective bargaining reform in the new South Africa

By Eddy Donnelly


This article reviews findings from a first survey of employers' views on collective bargaining reform that now forms the centrepiece of post-apartheid South Africa's experiment with 'democratic corporatism'. Using factor analysis, three constructs have been identified that inform employer attitudes to a revised system of sectoral bargaining: 'autonomous capacity'; 'conditional association'; 'external threat'. Despite the potential for anomie, these factors appear significant in the way they consistently explain an employer's orientation towards associational membership and, by proxy, sectoral bargaining. Moreover, at least two-thirds of responding firms identified strongly with each of the three factors but, typically, firms with weak capacity and in need of collective protection from the other actors are most likely to associate. Regression analysis further reveals company well-being, foreign ownership and union presence to have a significant impact on these three factors to varying degrees. Equally, two of the factors (autonomous capacity and external threat) impact significantly on an employer's tolerance of free-riding in others and on the temptation to do so for oneself. Overall, for this sample of firms, employer bodies are to be viewed more as 'political devices' than as 'economic agents' in the immediate aftermath of political liberation. In this sense, they are different from their European counter-parts. However, there is an increasing likelihood of this changing as the flexibility agenda looms ever larger in employers' minds and as issues of 'political insecurity

Topics: HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2001
DOI identifier: 10.1080/09585190121902
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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