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Labour Relations and Human Resources Unit

The Labour Relations and Human Resources Unit was originally established as the Industrial Relations Unit in 1981 following the sponsorship at UPE of a Chair by Volkswagen of South Africa (Pty) Limited. The Company’s sponsorship recognized the pressing need for experience in the rapidly evolving field; especially in the Eastern Cape with its volatile labour history. The Unit was originally named the Industrial Relations Unit as its major focus was on industrial relations in the manufacturing sector.

In 1996 the name was altered to the Labour Relations and Human Resources Unit to reflect fundamental changes in the field. The mobilization of employees in the public and service sectors of the economy as well as the extension of rights to farm and domestic workers led to the term labour relations becoming more widely used and applicable. In addition human resources and labour relations management has become increasingly integrated and the divide between the disciplines of industrial relations and personnel management which occurred during the 1980’s is no longer as evident.

The Unit’s main activities center round:

  • Academic courses, particularly at post-graduate level. The Honours Degree in Labour Relations is well established. There is an advanced degree programme leading to either a research or course work Masters degree and a Doctoral degree. Certificate programs for trade unions and management are also presented.
  • Research is conducted on an ongoing basis into such issues as the transformation of work, absenteeism and labour turnover, HIV and AIDS, strikes and stay-aways and conflict resolution.
  • Community services involve the presentation of topical courses for the public, as well as advice and information sharing with interested and concerned persons and organizations.Over time the staff of the unit have been involved in:
    • The development and delivery of mediation and arbitration services nationally and regionally since 1984 across a wide range of private and public sectors including automobile manufacturing; metals and engineering; the tyre industry; clothing ; retail; national and local government.
    • Presentations of workshops and training programmes for managers and trade unionists since 1981
    • Ministerial task teams as well as regional initiatives directed at transformation of the SA Police Services since 1994.
    • Regional structures and initiatives of the National Peace Accord between 1992 and 1994
    • Electoral Services: the Head of the Unit served as Director of Monitoring Services for the Eastern Cape in the nation’s historic 1994 elections, and has been involved in training SADC electoral administrators in conflict management through the Electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA)