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
Updated 7 hours ago The retail price of 95-grade petrol in South Africa will drop by 45 cents or 3.3 percent a liter from next Wednesday, while wholesale diesel will decrease by 4.9 percent, the government said on Friday. Petrol will cost 13.16 rand ($1.20) a liter while the wholesale...
Updated 7 hours ago Special purpose vehicle GreenCape will, by the end of 2014, make an application to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Western Cape provincial government and the City of Cape Town to declare Atlantis, on the Western seaboard, a special economic zone...
Recent Research Reports
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.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
This Week's Magazine
In the next 20 years, it was expected that, in Africa, more people would live in cities and towns than in rural areas, United Nations Habitat executive director Dr Aisa Kirabo Kacyira said at the Human Settlements Indaba that took place earlier this month in...
Tough-talking Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has committed government to building 1.5-million low-cost houses over the next five years, telling the Human Settlements Indaba in Johannesburg on Wednesday that the State would achieve this target through the...
Over the past 20 years there has been persistent concern about deindustrialisation in South Africa, as well as the fact that locally produced manufactured products have been increasingly displaced by imports.
Financial agreement for Ghanian independent power producer (IPP) Cenpower Generation Company’s $900-million, 350 MW combined-cycle gas-turbine power plant was finalised earlier this month, paving the way for the project’s construction to begin before 2015 in Tema,...
The revenue implications for South Africa of ‘base erosion and profit shifting’ by corporate taxpayers are firmly in the crosshairs of the Davis Tax Committee (DTC) and Judge Dennis Davis hinted last week that recommendations were being considered to “detect and...