Saturday, 3 December 2016

Marcel Paret about the Official Union Narratives of Community Protests in South Africa

Marcel Paret (2015) Failed Redistribution or Failed Administration? Official Union Narratives of Community Protest in South AfricaPolitikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 42(3): 345-366.
Abstract: How do unions relate to struggles being waged by those who are poor and lack secure employment? Drawing on a content analysis of 176 press releases, this article examines how two South African unions, the private manufacturing union NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) and the public services union SAMWU (South African Municipal Workers Union), officially responded to protests in township communities ravaged by unemployment. Both unions recognize the importance of the protests, but they situate them within different narratives. Revolving around a notion of failed redistribution, the NUMSA narrative is more left leaning but also more hostile to community protests, viewing them as lacking in political direction. Revolving around a notion of failed administration, the SAMWU narrative is less radical but expresses greater sympathy with and understanding of the protests. The two narratives suggest that union solidarity with more insecure layers of the working class will depend on their relation to the state and ruling party, and the extent to which they view themselves as privileged actors in working-class struggle.