Would you become part of a labour Union?

There is an innate divide between those in favour of labour unions and those against them. On the outside, it appears that joining a labour union can see your wages improve, the work week becoming shorter and the workplace being safer. Job Seekers Wednesday recently ran a poll which suggested many of you were in favour of joining a labour union. A staggering 77% said yes when we asked you the exact question.

labour unions poll

So, why is joining a labour union so attractive? Where it is important to acknowledge the benefits on the outside, it is important to identify the risks as well.

When people think of labour unions in South Africa, they often revert their minds to Cosatu. Started in 1985, The Congress of South African Trade Unions aim to create a non-racial, worker controlled federation which unites workers across all industries. In recent times, they have been exposed to the media in association with calls for President Jacob Zuma to go. He was booed and heckled at the Workers Day rally in May 2017, due to the dissatisfaction regarding ‘below par’ actions towards unemployment across the nation.

Pros of being part of a labour union

Labour unions employ a collective bargaining strategy to improve wages for workers and, often in return for a membership fee, secure better benefits such as medical care and insurance.  From a personal perspective, many people experience security by being part of a union, both in their job and their lifestyle.

Drawbacks of being part of a labour union

Although being part of a labour union sounds attractive, it doesn’t come for free. Membership fees can partially offset the higher wages you receive. Furthermore, the union will often act upon what is best for the entire group, as opposed to catering for the individual.

Many economists have identified a number of macroeconomic outcomes associated with the actions of labour unions. By driving up the wage through collective bargaining, this offsets the most efficient wage by bringing it out of equilibrium. A higher wage leads to an oversupply and under demand of labour, resulting in unemployment. Therefore, this explanation can be partially responsible for the currently high unemployment rate in South Africa. As a result, for those currently not part of a labour union, the actions of the unions can be detrimental to others seeking jobs.


Make sure you do your research thoroughly and talk to people who support both sides before committing to joining to a labour union. It is important to ensure your rights are met and you are receiving the best possible outcomes from your job. Yet, the effects of labour unions can have severe impacts on the economy as a whole, which could affect you in the long run.

If you feel strongly about this topic, remember to comment below or tweet us using the #jobseekerswednesday hashtag.


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