The State of South African Labour Law and Workplace Relations

November 23, 2018 by Anonymous

On Wednesday, November 14th, the CIRHR welcomed Shamima Gaibie and Ludwig Frahm-Arp of the South African Society of Labour Law. They spoke to a group of faculty, PhDs and MIRHR students about labour law in South Africa, its history, and how it has interacted with politics—before, during and after Apartheid—and with the prevailing employment structures historically and today. 

Below, they reflect on their visit to Toronto:  

Shamima Gaibie and Ludwig Frahm-Arp, the past and present National Presidents for the South African Society of Labour Law were recently in Toronto for the launch of a fellowship programme between the University of Toronto and Saslaw in which students of the university will spend time in South Africa assisting with the Saslaw Pro Bono Project.  

The Project provides free legal advice to people in South Africa who have disputes with their employer before the Labour Court and who cannot afford to pay for the services of an attorney. The advice offices are staffed by experienced labour lawyers who are members of Saslaw on a voluntary basis. The clients are either assisted with oral advice, or with assistance in preparing their papers, or the matter is taken on by that attorney and that attorney’s law firm then represents the client. In so doing it provides real access to justice.  

Shamima and Ludwig were delighted and grateful for the enthusiasm demonstrated for the fellowship, which will in part provide the Project with much needed funding.  

They also spoke at the Centre of Industrial Relations and Human Resources on the challenges facing the labour market in South Africa. The South African labour law landscape is very much a mirror of its political landscape. Historically trade unions were the political voice of the black employees when many political parties were banned. Those unions are now redefining their role within the workplace while still grappling with the political role they play. As a result, we have seen a rise of union rivalry as the old union alliances are coming under pressure and new unions are developing.  

In the workplace, South Africa is confronted with the worldwide phenomenon of formal employment and the protections afforded therein vs the requirements of a more flexible workforce which does not always result in formal employment relationships. Within this environment South Africa is facing challenges relating to equal work for equal pay and other issues relating to discrimination.