The Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), which is located in the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University, brought Prof Eddie Webster to the Eastern Cape in October 2014. Prof Webster is a Rhodes University alumnus, Professor Emeritus in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Director of the Chris Hani Institute. He was a founder of the Global Labour Journal, where he served as Editor-in-Chief until the end of 2014, and is completing a book on Labour after Globalisation: Old and new sources of workers’ power.
On 7 October 2014, Prof Webster gave a seminar on research undertaken in the Eastern Cape by the Chris Hani Institute in partnership with the ISER. Entitled “The old is dying and the new is not yet born”: Reflections on the findings of a household survey in old Transkei, the seminar drew on the results of a household survey in five villages in the Instsika Yethu Local Municipality in the Chris Hani Municipality of the Eastern Cape. The survey revealed high levels of deprivation, poor service provision and disruption of the relationship between communities and the state. A lively discussion ensued during this seminar, which included reflection on the implications for government organisation and public sector unions.
The next day, Prof Webster gave a public lecture in East London on Labour after globalisation: old and new sources of workers’ power. Held on the East London campus of the University of Fort Hare, and chaired by Dr John Reynolds of NALSU, the lecture explored the links between precarious work and globalisation, the rise of global labour studies, the forms of contestation of globalisation’s impact on workers, and the new sources of workers’ power. The latter could be seen in the increasing exercise of logistical and societal power by workers. Prof Webster ended his lecture with a reflection on worker mobilisation in Marikana and De Doorns, with the latter serving as an example of the exercise of logistical power. The discussion that followed this lecture included inputs from trade union officials, academics, students, government officials, and members of the broader public. The event was co-presented by Rhodes University, the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) of the Eastern Cape Provincial Government, the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC), the University of Fort Hare, and Eastern Cape Today.