International Labour Organisation: Introduction to Co-Operatives for Domestic Workers in South Africa
This report is the outcome of a study involving domestic workers and other stakeholders in South Africa, in particular Cape Town and Johannesburg. The study used participatory techniques to encourage two way communication and learning with regard to the opportunities and challenges for co-operative development in the domestic work sector. It is aimed at increasing the capacity of domestic workers to overcome decent work deficits at the same time as demonstrating the role of co-operatives in empowering domestic workers to be able to establish co-operative enterprises that give them the opportunity to improve their socio-economic status.
The significance of cooperatives as a form of social enterprise extends beyond the immediate purposes of such enterprises in the case of domestic workers. The starting point is the extremely limited extent of organisation in the domestic sector. Trade unionism is taken as a key point of reference since this has been the traditional and, arguably, most viable form of organisation for workers in most sectors. In the domestic sector, however, the industrial trade union model, as provided for in the Labour Relations Act (LRA),5 has been singularly ineffective. No other form of organisation remotely suited to the domestic sector is provided for by labour legislation. The result is a practical absence of grassroots organisation of any kind and, at the same time, the urgent need for such organisation to address the numerous shortcomings in the protection and implementation of the rights of domestic workers.