Working leather : the fusion of formal and informal industrial relations in a Durban shoe factory.
The thesis concerns the persistent coupling of formal and informal industrial relations within a particular manufacturing company. At first, the company's formal structure of industrial relations was heavily tempered by the operation of informal cross cutting ties. The resultant system of industrial relations was one that might be regarded as a hybrid, integrating formal and informal networks of relationships within the organization of the factory. The quite discernible ethos of informality or paternalism remained largely unchallenged by the rather facilitating political conditions that prevailed at the time. However, the political climate has, in the last decade or so, been subject to considerable pressure that has resulted in some far reaching and fundamental changes to the political order of the country. The emergent political conditions have enforced upon the company the need for change. The essence of such changes were perceived to hinge upon the transformation of the company's system of industrial relations. The transformation entailed the establishment of a more overtly formal system of industrial relations, separating the formal and informal relations which had becomes inextricably entwined. However, the objectives of such changes were never quite achieved. The distinction between the formal and informal industrial relations remained submerged in the melee of intergroup contestation. The various interest groups in the factory context appropriated the division between formal and informal industrial relations, enabling these groups to phrase their industrial strategies within an idiom most contextually appropriate. What emerged was an extension of this tendency to merge formal and informal industrial relations.