Trade Union in the Sandf: The Inevitable Consequence of Incompatible Values | Abstract
Journal of Defense Management

Journal of Defense Management
Open Access

ISSN: 2167-0374


Trade Union in the Sandf: The Inevitable Consequence of Incompatible Values

Makatipe Charles Kgosana

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has recently been plagued by incessant clashes between organisational political leadership and trade unions. The culminating point was the memorable march to Union Building that led to physical clashes between the police and unionised soldiers. That incident created a disparaging image of the military as the protector of the society. The situation necessitated a poignant question to be asked about the causes of that scene and the reasons for the existence of military trade unions (MTUs) in the SANDF. Generally, the underlying cause of unionization in organisations is the dissatisfaction with human resources management practices and the unresponsive leadership. In the SANDF the dissatisfaction is rooted in dichotomous values harboured by soldiers and their leaders. The political leaders expect and demand professional orientation while soldiers ascribe to occupational orientation. This mismatch of values led to perceptions of violation of psychological contract. Due to the power dynamics characterising every employment relationship, employees have a low bargaining power hence join trade unions to help convey their discontent. This decision was unwelcome by organisational political leadership, with resultant focus on fighting unions rather than solving issues affecting soldiers. The protracted differences have been characterised by interminable court cases and clashes between leadership and MTUs. This paper will theoretically discuss the causes of inevitable different values between leadership and soldiers, the perceptions of violation of psychological contract and the sequence of requirements that need to be met before unionization can occur in the military. Lastly, conclusions and recommendations will be suggested that can help to diffuse the adversarial relationship between MTUs and organisational leadership and lead to the desired professional military.