Organising Against Precarity: The Life of a South African Labour Broker Worker

Carin Runciman, Khongelani Hlungwani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents Khongelani Hlungwani’s experiences of working as a labour broker worker and his struggle to become a permanent worker in Gauteng, South Africa. His account provides a lens through which to understand the shopfloor divisions between permanent and labour broker workers. These divisions are, as Hlungwani’s account demonstrates, compounded by a trade union movement that largely sidelines the interests of precarious workers in favour of permanent workers. This has led many workers, like Hlungwani, to be distrustful of trade unions. Thus, when new labour rights were introduced in 2015, which provided an impetus for labour broker workers to organise, many, like Hlungwani, chose to do so outside of trade unions. The article demonstrates how it was possible, in the South African context, to utilise the institutional power of new labour rights to build associational power outside of trade unions. The article provides insight into both the strength and the fragility of these forms of organising through an account of the strike that Hlungwani participated in in solidarity with unionised workers at his workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-568
Number of pages12
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • South Africa
  • community advice offices
  • labour broking
  • precarious labour
  • self-organising
  • unions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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