A decrease in trade unions membership

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THANDI XABA

The number of registered trade unions in the country has decreased by 14% between 1994 and last year. This is according to a survey conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations who further site there were over 3million trade union memberships last year. Spokesperson Mienke Mari Steytler says unions are struggling to attract young workers and that leads to many of them closing down.

"Unions are struggling to find relevance with the working landscape and to attract younger workers. There is also probably a stronger influence regarding the tensions with the larger trade unions. That leads unions closing and also membership is declining," she says.

However, she adds, trade unions are important and they still play an important role as they represent the workers especially if you are a casual or shift worker.

"The labour market makes it difficult for business owners to deal with trade unions and actually limits economic growth in SA.This decline in union membership is actually proving that it’s time to reform. Also businesses can contribute to the growth of the economy," she adds.

According to Steytler the future looks like there’s going to be more and more declines and we will possibly see smaller independent trade unions.

"Possibly in agriculture for example, we might be seeing more co-operatives coming into place, we are hoping it’ll still benefit the workers and also that the economy will grow. We are unlikely to see an increase in unions unless the unions become more relevant to younger workers and this stage they are not. The high youth unemployment rate is also so high that you find the young people who could be in these unions are not working," she explains.

The survey further indicates that trade union membership in agriculture, mining and construction among others, declined between 2000 and 2014.