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Union power and new managerial strategies: the case of South Africa

Geoffrey Wood (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Keith Glaister (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 27 June 2008




This study aims to assess the relationship between unionization and employee collectivism, and managerial strategies for employee participation and involvement, within an emerging market economy that has prioritized export competitiveness.


This paper centres on a survey of South African employees


The paper reveals the coexistence of high levels of union power, with a range of mechanisms for participation and involvement.

Practical implications

The South African experience underscores the extent to which greater regulation of the employment contract (through law and unions) can be complementary to both high value added manufacturing strategies and robust export performance. The South African case further highlights both the bounded and institutionally constrained nature of strategy formulation, yet also the willingness of clusters of firms to experiment with alternative strategies, albeit with mixed results: strategy and action represent a product of both setting and real strategic choices.


The paper highlights the extent to which greater collectivism and regulation within the workplace may contribute to economic success within an emerging market context.



Wood, G. and Glaister, K. (2008), "Union power and new managerial strategies: the case of South Africa", Employee Relations, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 436-451.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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