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Are worker issues getting attention they deserve?

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Although our political landscape has various unions, most workers are still organised around the rallying cry “workers of the world, unite!”

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Tomorrow, thousands of workers across the length and breadth of our country will be celebrating May Day.

Although our political landscape has various unions, most workers are still organised around the rallying cry “workers of the world, unite!”

With a few days to go to the watershed May 8 provincial and national elections, workers in this country have a daunting challenge of asking themselves if they, under the banner of the trade union movement, are united.

It is the unity of the workers that ensured that trade union federation Cosatu played a crucial role in the Struggle for liberation in our country.

It is, indeed, that unity which ensured the progressive Labour Relations Act, which symbolises a great victory by the workers against the apartheid laws that, like other pieces of legislation, oppressed black people on the shop floor.

But, as we approach the elections, issues of workers are not at the centre of our political discourse.

Most parties are visibly not making an effort to woo workers on specific issues affecting the shop floor. Of late, the voice of the trade union movement no longer carries the same weight as it used to.

Over the years, technology has led to significant changes in the workplace, leading to job losses. Many industries – notably mining – have continued to shed jobs, which has reduced the membership of trade unions and weakened them.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution approaches, workers and the trade union movement have to ask themselves tough questions about the future of work and shop floors.

Most importantly, workers and their leaders have to reflect on what happened to that proverbial bargaining power that the trade union movement used to wield when it came to public affairs and the country’s political life.