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Corporate Codes as Terms of the Contract of Employment in South Africa

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The change in political climate in the 1980's and 1990's has led to a move towards ideological preference for private sector solutions to socioeconomic ills. Both conservative and social democratic governments in Europe and Australasia have responded to international competition and the interdependence of economic and financial markets by allowing for more flexibility in labour markets and a move to privatisation. This trend and the changed world of work brought on by technology and globalisation has resulted in not only a decline in trade union influence, but a concomitant individualisation of the employment relationship. South Africa is no exception to these trends. The result of this is that the individual contract of employment has become not only the foundation of the relationship, but often the major source of the respective parties’ rights and obligations. Individual employees and dependent workers have consequently become vulnerable to employer exploitation.

The inability of governments to protect individuals from economic insecurity has contributed to a renewed expectation that corporations should have a responsibility in furthering the interests of the public or the public good. Fortunately, globalisation has also brought about an awareness of the importance of a company's image and the response of the community to corporate conduct. These interests are not only those of the community in general, but include more specifically the interests of all those that are affected by the actions of a company in terms of the stakeholder theory. These stakeholders include the company's suppliers, customers and importantly, the employees. Codes of corporate conduct can be used to address employee needs where other means such as legislation or collective bargaining have proved insufficient. Employers that subscribe to corporate codes ensure the following: They conduct themselves in an ethical manner. This would entail inter alia paying salaries that at least fulfil basic needs and providing a safe working environment. They are responsive to employee needs and proposals. They not only allow for representation, but create an environment that is conducive to collective representation whether by trade unions or some other collective.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Globalization and Social Responsibility
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