The Role of Trade Unions in South Africa: Towards the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the Workplace

Author Lindani Nxumalo

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Attorney, PhD (UKZN)
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 41 Issue 4, 2020, p. 2311 – 2327


Trade unions can play a vital role in the workplace. They are constitutionally recognised as one of the pertinent stakeholders in strengthening democracy and promoting sound labour relations. Additionally, various employment laws and disability policies recognise them as key role players in the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace. Despite such provisions, persons with disabilities continue to suffer inequalities in the working environment. Their prospects of employment are rare, they struggle to retain employment where employed and are stigmatised by both employers and society more broadly. Even when employed, they are often not reasonably accommodated. This article argues that while trade unions are at the forefront of fighting for workers’ rights, they have been less successful in creating an awareness of disability matters and engaging employers effectively on non-compliance with disability related provisions. It contends that through strategic litigation, a robust approach and collective bargaining, they can significantly improve the achievement of substantive equality for disabled persons in the world of work.