Labour Market Transformation

Labour Market Transformation

The Labour Market Transformation Programme was established in August 2006 and has since its inception been conducting research on a wide variety of themes including atypical employment, unemployment, wages, unionisation and collective bargaining.

Since its establishment in August 2006, the Labour Market Transformation Programme (LMT) has anchored its work on four key pillars:

  • Analysing labour market dynamics, outcomes and relationship to broader development questions;
  • Studying workplace change in terms of production structure, work organization, equity and skills development;
  • Analysing the impact of new legislation, regulation and policies on workers;
  • Supporting collective bargaining and the living wage campaign;
In the last four years, the LMT Programme has undertaken the following research projects:

  1. A study of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) (2006)
  2. Research on the growth and contribution of the agro-processing, construction and retail sectors to the South African economy (2007).
  3. Research on wages and conditions of work in the soccer industry (2007).
  4. Research on the wage gap in the South African labour market (2008).
  5. Study of unionization in the South African call centre industry (2008).
  6. A study of atypical employment in the SA labour market (2008).
  7. Research on retrenchments in the South African economy as a result of the recent economic crisis (on-going).
  8. Research on the impact of select labour legislation (Labour Relations Act and the Employment Equity Act) on productivity (on-going).
  9. Research on obstacles to union organizing in the South African farming sector (on-going).

Collective bargaining is one of the two key focal areas of the LMT (the other is research). Since its inception, the LMT programme has been analysing recent trends in the labour market and using this analysis to support and strengthen union capacity for collective bargaining. One of our chief outputs in this regard is the Annual Report on Bargaining which was submitted to COSATU’s Central Executive Committee in February 2007, 2008 and 2009. The February 2008 report was particularly significant as it was featured in all of the country’s mainstream newspapers and requested by a wide range of individuals and institutions including banks, finance market analysts, the Department of Labour, academics and students.

Under this project, we have also organized two successful training workshops for union negotiators and shopstewards; the first one was held in May 2007 and the second a year later. Our work in this project has led to a continuing stream of requests for information and analysis as well as presentations in seminars, workshops and conferences. Most of these requests come from unions during the bargaining season.

Unfortunately, limited funding has constrained our ability to continue with this important work with the result that we were not able to organize the training workshops in 2009 and 2010, or to produce the 2010 edition of the Annual Report on Bargaining.

In September 2010, we successfully completed the management of a major, multi-pronged research project commissioned by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. This project looked at the problems and challenges inherent in South Africa’s dispute resolution mechanism and had four sub-projects:

  1. Development of the Case Management Reporting and Statistical Analysis Tools
  2. Improving Commissioner and Mediation Information for Handling Disputes.
  3. Support for Bargaining Councils and Centralised Bargaining.
  4. Improvement of the Role and Functions of the Labour Court.

Kimani Ndungu is the programme manager, while Chere Monaisa is a researcher.

It is now four years since the LMT programme was established but in this short span of time, we have made remarkable progress in terms of analysing and responding to changes in the labour market. Internally, funding is our biggest constraint since we are primarily request driven and often, the funding is limited and short-term. To remain sustainable, we have embarked on a strategy of initiating a wide number of multi, rather than single-year projects.

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