178.1 Trade unions and the worker cooperative alternative in South Africa:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 2:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Vishwas SATGAR , International Relations, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
Post-apartheid South Africa has experienced a rapid growth in cooperative development. In 1994 there was an estimated 1300 formally registered cooperatives. Today there are over 30 000. This quantitative growth in cooperatives is largely the consequence of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy push by the post-apartheid government. This paper explores two issues. First how the policy of Black Economic Empowerment constructed a discourse which prevented the emergence of radical worker cooperatives in the mainstream. Second, it explores how trade unions have attempted to utilise the worker cooperative alternative to advance a transformative approach to union strategy and challenge BEE from below. In this regard the paper explores three case studies of trade-union linked worker cooperative development. The contexts explored are different: worker cooperatives in the context of university restructuring, an attempted buy out of an enterprise by a union as part of establishing a worker cooperative and finally an attempted take over of an insolvent factory by retrenched workers. The case studies point to the experiences, challenges and lessons learned for transformative union practice in the context of neoliberal restructuring and global capitalist crisis.