The rights of labour have been described as “claims of reciprocity for the reality of being labour”. For over 12 million unemployed South Africans the possibility of labour is denied, and those who labour informally increasingly enjoy limited “claims of reciprocity” despite wide-reaching labour and employment laws and the inclusion of justiciable labour rights in the Constitution.
This paper is concerned with a particular category of informal workers, namely informal craft producers who access formal markets through intermediaries. The paper questions the relevance of the traditional labour law lens, which seeks to frame the relationship between the intermediary and the producers as one of employer/employees, in this context. The paper argues for a broader lens than the binary employer/employee or triangular firm/broker/worker lens. It suggests that value chain analysis, which focuses on the entire supply chain, captures the complexity of the work relations and, more importantly, the extent of the power relations at play. The paper argues further that voluntary codes, regulatory or self- governance of supply chains seldom have redistributional effects and thus explores the redistributional potential of commercial incentives. Specifically, the paper considers whether the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment framework could be used by intermediaries and producers to achieve redistributive leverage.