This study investigated whether high quality Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) relationships between farmers and farm labourers reduce the level of militancy that labourers will adopt during labour strikes. The study was conducted in the aftermath of the farm labour wage strikes which occurred between August 2012 and January 2013 in De Doorns in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, in which three labourers lost their lives.
Purposive sampling was used to conduct semi-structured interviews across a spectrum of farmers and managers in De Doorns to construct eight case studies of the same event. The interviews were transcribed and analysed in order to test the propositions that were developed during the literature review.
This study confirmed the existence of LMX relationships between farmers and labourers. The study further found that: labourers who enjoy higher quality LMX relationships with farmers may be less militant during labour strikes; trust is a critical factor in developing and sustaining high quality LMX relationships; the quality of LMX relationships influences the time required to restore the work relationships after a crisis situation; and the social context in which leaders and members are embedded will influence the quality of the LMX relationship. These findings have applications for the management of labour intensive industries in South Africa that could benefit from reduced militant behaviour during labour strikes.