The manufacturing workplace has undergone significant changes in the post-apartheid era, from ongoing technological advancement to the rise of ‘non-standard’ or ‘precarious’ forms of employment and the decline of a dominant trade union presence. In almost any factory in South Africa today, a large proportion of workers are either employed by a subcontracted company (externalisation and labour broking) or are contracted directly but on a highly insecure basis (casualisation). Most of these workers are not unionised. In order to understand what the future of labour in the manufacturing sector might look like, it is crucial to understand how restructuring the labour process throws up both obstacles and possibilities for workers to build their power. We show that the dominant union response to restructuring has been to become complicit in entrenching dualised workplace regimes based on ‘hegemonic control’ over unionised permanent workers and ‘despotic’ forms of control over workers in precarious forms of employment. New challenges to capital’s dualised workplace regime are emerging from below, as precarious workers struggle for permanent jobs and equalisation to rebuild power for themselves at a workplace level.
Much of the debate on the future of work has focused on responses to technological trends in the Global North, with little evidence on how these trends are impacting on work and workers in the Global South.
Drawing on a rich selection of ethnographic studies of precarious work in Africa, this innovative book discusses how globalisation and digitalisation are drivers for structural change and examines their implications for labour. Bringing together global labour studies and inequality studies, it explores the role of digital technology in new business models, and ways in which digitalization can be harnessed for counter mobilisation by the new worker.
17 Jul 2023
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