Steven Tau
1 minute read
2 May 2015
7:00 pm

Unions in ‘relevance crisis’

Steven Tau

South Africa's trade union movement is facing a crisis of "relevance", Free Market Foundation economist Loane Sharp said yesterday as workers in South Africa joined the rest of the world in celebrating May Day.

The Cosatu led march moved from the Worshop mall in the Durban city center herding to the Curries Fountain stadium in Durban under tight security Picture Phumlani Thabethe

He added May Day should be about celebrating workers’ achievements and finding new ways to bring millions more people into active work.

“May Day does not have the sense of urgency it once did because workers today are vastly more skilled, better paid and with much better working conditions in most parts of the world,” said Sharp.

“Those countries that are lagging behind often have themselves to blame because it is widely accepted that liberal, market-orientated democracies produce tremendous gains for workers and families.”

The countries that have embraced the market system have flourished beyond the “wildest dreams” of worker movements in the 1940s and 1950s, added the economist.

“The market economy pays workers better and they have better working conditions and they participate fully in the benefit that the market has to offer,” said Sharp.

As a result, the union movement was transforming, with union membership declining around the world.

“Unfortunately, SA has not participated fully in the global economy miracle as seven million people earn less than R4 500 per month and more than half of young people cannot, and will never, find work because the education system is in the interest of teachers and not pupils.

“Unless we address these fundamental problems in market-

orientated ways, the prospects for the next generation of workers are bleak.”