GLU Conference

XI Global Labour University Conference,
28 - 30 Sept. 2016, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Just Transition and the Role of Labour: Our Ecological, Social, and Economic Future

The dynamics of the current global economic and political (dis)order have had devastating impacts on the environment and on working people, their families and communities throughout the world. These dynamics have resulted in the informalisation of labour, unemployment, and social inequality at the national and global levels. The "slummification" of cities and commodification of public goods and public services as well as common goods like land, water and public space has intensified. Declining biodiversity, climate change and pollution are evidence of the impact of the crisis on the planet itself. Environmental degradation threatens viable livelihoods and endangers public health. Meanwhile, market imperatives get defining power over daily life, business interests tighten their stranglehold on the state logic, and power is transferred to supranational institutions with limited democratic accountability, simultaneously narrowing electoral choices, and placing increasing restrictions on protest.

Labour, as a key social force of the excluded majority, has a crucial role to play in countering these destructive logics, yet we also find labour playing a more ambiguous role, for example protecting the position of ?insider? sectors of the working class, colluding with governing parties or corporations, or participating in corrupt practices. This conference is designed to explore both progressive labour experiences as well as these more ambiguous or contrary activities. To what extent does the politics of labour alter or reinforce the balance of power away from capital and unelected bureaucracies toward labour and broader society? To what extent does labour overcome the multiple relations of power and oppression, including the economic, political gender, ethnic and cultural, and to what extent does labour contribute to and reproduce the power of the few and the subordination of the many? In light of these experiences, do we need to rethink the analytical category 'trade union' and the assumptions that we attached to this? These questions have the following dimensions:

1. The workplace

2. Employment

3. New forms of power or leverage

4. Progressive policies

5. Political parties, alliances and trade union organisations, and political power

6. Governing the economy

7. Alternative forms of production, consumption and redistribution

8. Combating the decent work deficit in agricultural production systems

The conference is hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). It aims to promote debate between academic scholars, trade unionists and civil society activists and leaders.

For more information please contact conference coordinator Pulane Ditlhake at glu.southafrica(at)

Conference Papers


Parktonian Hotel (Ref No: 655702)
Contact: Ms Nomvuyo Mngadi 
Tel.: +27 11 403 5740

Apex Accommodation
Contact: Attention Vesta
Tel: +27 11 888 1735


Conference Impressions