Workers’ protection can be achieved, to a large extent, through labour law and workers’ organisation through trade unionism. Workers’ protection is defined as social protection. This study investigates workers’ experiences of their employment with regard to social protection as manifested in job security and wage adequacy. In this study workers’ perception of labour law, as a tool for workers’ protection, is considered in relation to the argument of the régulation theorists that law serves as a ‘mode of regulation’ to perpetuate the stability of the prevailing capitalist regime of accumulation. The impact of the changing nature of work on the effectiveness of labour law at achieving workers’ protection is investigated from the perspective of workers. A large employer subcontracting some support services was selected as a site of study. Data was collected using one-on-one in-depth interview to ‘tap’ into the working experiences of relevant workers and union officials. This study concludes that the changing nature of work as manifest in the decline of standard employment relationships and increase of atypical (non standard) employment, such as subcontracting undermines workers’ protection. Wages and other benefits of workers are affected. Workers survive through the support of their families and by borrowing from micro lenders which tend to suck them into a poverty cycle. The ineffectiveness of labour law to adequately protect subcontracted workers substantiates the position of régulation theorists that law is an extra-economic institutionalised practice helping to stabilize the prevailing capitalist regime of accumulation. The thinking here is that labour law is not unilaterally imposed by the state, rather, it is a product of social interaction (social relation) or struggle between labour, capital and the state within a social ‘field’ or ‘subfield’. The nature of employment of subcontracted work weakens the power of workers’ collective through trade unions. The restructuring of work leads to deunionisation and the ability of unions to organise these workers is undermined by difference in employer and pay-point between permanent workers and subcontracted workers. Copyright
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2010.