Oct 12, 2012
Working as a team an ‘economic necessity’Back
New York|SECURITY|Africa|Industrial|Security|Africa|North America|South Africa|United States|Columbia University|Security|Food Service Workers|Healthcare|Security|Service|Andy Stern|Barack Obama|Security
© Reuse this
Stern is the former president of the 2.2-million member Service Employees International Union, which, under his leadership, grew into North America’s largest union, representing cleaners, security and food service workers, as well as healthcare and provincial workers.
Currently associated with Columbia University, in New York, Stern has also served on President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and also collaborated on a recent Council on Foreign Relations report on the role of trade in the global economy.
One of his key messages for business and labour is that “countries are teams” competing in the global economy for investment and employment. Therefore, “your other stakeholders are team mates” and a job-centric collaboration between business, labour and government is “now an economic necessity”, not merely a nice to have.
It’s message that doesn’t even fit well with Stern’s own natural anti-business and anti-establishment inclinations, with his own mother having described his union involvement as a job for a “juvenile delinquent”.
But merely fighting business “doesn’t really work well for workers,” he shared in an interview.
Controversially for a labour leader, Stern now tends to eschew old distinctions between left and right ideology. “What is more relevant may be right and wrong strategies for growth and sharing in success.”
Given the pace of change and innovation, the reality of global-isation and the emergence of an entirely new world of work, where the concept of ‘one job in a lifetime’ is less and less realistic, Stern argues that it is incumbent on labour leaders to understand the competitive pressures faced by the employer.
“What you do with that understanding is one question, but it is not good for members for trade union leaders to be ignorant of those realities.”
Different interests will prevail, but an objective analysis of the economic reality will show that “unless we work together as a team, our country is not going to be successful.”
It’s unlikely to be a popular message in the current South African context and, in the short term, it may even be sensible, in the interest of industrial peace, for employers to give into demands that are not justifiable on the economic facts.
However, in the longer term, labour leaders will need to do what is truly in the interests of their members: help build rather than undermine firm- level competitiveness through a disciplined adherence to labour-relations rules and by pursuing the best deal for workers within the constraints of prevailing economic con- dition.
In the end, without additional and more competitive companies, jobs – which the World Bank now acknowledges to be more important to development than growth – will be even harder to create and sustain. A prospect that no South African can surely bear face.
Edited by: Terence Creamer© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Editorial Insight News
Article contains comments
Recent Research Reports
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
This Week's Magazine
South Africa remains an important manufacturing and export platform for Ford Motor Company, says executive chairperson Bill Ford. However, he adds that other countries on the continent are “becoming interesting”, and that the US carmaker is casting its net wider for...
Germany’s Max-Planck-Society (MPG) and the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPlfR) are investing €11-million (about R150-million) into South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope array programme. The money will be used to design, build and install S-band radio...
Infrastructure spend in sub-Saharan Africa will grow from $70-billion in 2013 to $180-billion by 2025, says PwC capital projects and infrastructure Africa leader Jonathan Cawood. This is one of the findings of PwC’s Capital Projects & Infrastructure report on East...
Private-owned defence and aerospace manufacturer Paramount Group and the Ichikowitz Family Foundation unveiled its Anti-Poaching Skills and K9 Training Academy in Magaliesburg last month.
The inclusion of Bluetooth to provide sub-three meter accuracy and heightened functionality for users is one of the ways to change existing wireless networks into engagement networks. An engagement network differs from common wireless networks in that it enables the...