“This feature of South Africa justifies our struggle for economic freedom and is also directed at the emancipation of the African continent,” Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Manifesto (2013).
South Africa successfully completed a political transformation in 1994. One cornerstone of this success was how the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance effectively used the workplace in its struggle for political freedom and labour democracy. After more than twenty years of political freedom, the country now faces an economic revolution.
The threat and danger of a second revolution in South Africa is consistent with the so-called “J-curve” theory of rising expectations.
This theory implies that a second revolution, namely, an economic revolution, will follow any political revolution that fails to satisfy the needs and expectations of the “masses.” When the gap between people’s expectations and satisfaction levels and a country’s economic realities becomes too wide, political leadership will lose control over the masses. Indeed, destructive behaviour and even a civil war may follow. Similar to what took place during the “freedom struggle” in the apartheid era, the workplace will once again become a battlefield for change. Militant and violent strikes will serve as an important change intervention in the struggle for a new socialist-oriented political and economic dispensation in South Africa.
In a global village characterised by competitiveness founded on cost efficiency, product quality, and productivity, out-of-control politically inspired labour unrest will have disastrous consequences for the national economy of South Africa. Examples of potential destructive consequences include loss of foreign investor confidence, income, competitive ability, trust, and most important, hope.
Therefore, it is important that role players in the South African business environment counter the foreseeable impact of an economic revolution with an economic evolution. This new economic evolution needs to reflect a balanced business leadership approach towards economic growth and economic development in their business modelling. The underlying rationale being that an organisation is an integral part of the broader community and no world-class organisation can operate in an unstable community characterised by poverty, unemployment, and crime.
Employment relations as an overall integrative concept for human resources and industrial/labour relations set the parameters for innovative people practices in support of the National Development Plan (NDP) of South Africa. As such, an employment relations function encompasses all aspects of the employment relationship: individual and collective, formal and informal, union and non-union workplaces, industry, and non-industrial community. It also recognizes the importance of customers and suppliers, which constitute a “pentagonal employment relationship”.
More specifically employment relations entails the planning and positioning of the employment relations function, organising the function, talent management (e.g. manpower planning, recruiting, development, performance, reward, succession and exit), collaborative relations, conflicting relations, risk and compliance.
Small business owners, general management, training specialists, human resource, labour relations and industrial relations practitioners and employment relations professionals in the government and private sectors, trade union officials, senior undergraduate students, graduate students, and MBA students with a specialisation module in labour, industrial or employment relations will find this text book a ‘must have’ easy to read information source and reference work.
Most importantly, this introductory work offers readers a simplistic but integrative futuristic perspective on how to manage the employment relationship in South Africa.
Employment Relations: Back to Basics, published by LexisNexis South Africa, should be on the desk for daily consultation by every leader in the organisation and should be the standard textbook for any labour relations; human resource management; industrial psychology and in fact any commercial programme. This and other legal titles are available at LexisNexis Store.
Written by By JA Slabbert, AJ Parker and DV Farrell