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Alan Emery

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Privatization, Neoliberal Development, and the Struggle for Workers’ Rights in Post Apartheid South Africa

This article reviews workers’ struggles for a better future in South Africa, including those for collective bargaining rights, racial equality, and social justice. The outcome is uneven, with fairly successful struggles for collective bargaining rights, political inclusion, and formal racial equality, but with less success in achieving substantive racial equality and social justice. Under the pressure of neoliberal globalization, the ruling ANC has prioritized an economic agenda favorable to domestic and foreign capital investment, leading to job losses. Local government initiatives have subjected their basic needs (municipal) infrastructure operations to the principles of cost recovery, often implemented through repression. More positively, under pressure from unions, the state has also extended the social wage package and has begun to address unemployment with a labor-intensive public works program, suggesting potential for social democracy in a developing country. Likely future strategies for increasing social justice include increasingly merged domestic mobilizations of unions and community groups, and wider developing country labor internationalism aimed at contesting neoliberalism.

worker’s struggle, South Africa, collective bargaining rights, racial equality, social justice, neoliberalism, democratization, developing country, social democracy

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 3 (2006): 6-19