Organizing in the Informal Economy: A Case Study of the Building Industry in South Africa

SEED Working Paper No. 38

Collective representation of informal workers and entrepreneurs in South Africa's construction industry is at an embryonic stage. Attempts by both traditional trade unions and some employers' associations to organize informal economic actors in this sector are underway, but are still limited in nature and scope. This report evaluates the approaches adopted by a number of organizations, not necessarily those targeting solely informal actors, to organize and improve working conditions in the industry. It also identifies potential elements of a comprehensive organizing strategy in the sector and highlights critical issues for shaping and implementing such a strategy.

Provides an overview of the construction industry in South Africa and examines collective bargaining arrangements and other institutions which affect organizing, wages and working conditions for informal sector workers. Profiles the activities of four unions and two associations of building employers with an interest in organizing and improving working conditions in the informal economy. Outlines a potential strategy for organizing informal building workers.