Principals’ experiences of being disempowered by union members

Published in: Journal of Psychology in Africa
Volume 27, issue 4, 2017 , pages: 388–392
DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2017.1347770
Author(s): Chris MyburghDepartment of Educational Psychology, South Africa, Marie PoggenpoelDepartment of Educational Psychology, South Africa, Veronica Mapitso KgaboDepartment of Educational Psychology, South Africa


This study explored school principals’ experience of managing unionised schools in South Africa. Qualitative in-depth phenomenological interviews were conducted with a purposeful selected sample of 13 school principals of unionised schools (age range 36-60 years). The school principals responded to open-ended interviews on their managing of school business with staff labour union activity. Thematic coding was utilised to analyse the collected data. Findings indicate the school principals to experience managerial paralysis from adversarial and confrontational engagement by union leaders and members towards them. They reported union activity a significant task diversion through mob-mentality co-option of the membership preventing rational discourse and compromising work health and safety of all school community members. Avenues need to be explored for school staff unionisation to be a resource for the core business of child education.

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