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ABSTRACT

Is adopting a social movement role the most effective organisational strategy for organised labour or is it little more than an ideal, in an age of austerity and union defensiveness? This article draws on a national survey of Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) members to test perceptions of union activities and finds that COSATU unions largely embrace a social movement role. However, in the context of insecurity, unions need to address the central challenge of declining formal sector employment and precarious jobs.