South African Boilermakers' Society

The South African Boilermakers', Iron and Steel Workers', Shipbuilders' and Welders' Society (SABS) was a trade union representing metalworkers and shipbuilders in South Africa.



The union was established in 1916. Many of its founding members were recent emigrants from England and had held membership of the United Society of Boilermakers, including founding president George Brown, and Ben Caddy, who was general secretary from 1920 to 1950.[1][2]

The union was successively affiliated to the South African Industrial Federation, the South African Trades Union Council, and the South African Trades and Labour Council. In the 1950s, it played a leading role in the Trade Union Unity Committee, which opposed compulsory splitting of trade unions on racial grounds. It then joined the Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA), and although it disaffiliated in 1977, it rejoined in 1980. By then, it had 18,400 members, and it received permission to admit black workers. As a result, its membership reached 45,000 by the end of 1981.[1][3]

In 1983, the union again resigned from TUCSA, in protest at the way it favoured the struggles of white workers. Many other unions followed its lead, and TUCSA had to dissolve in 1986.[4] In 1990, it absorbed the South African Engine Drivers', Firemen's and Operators' Association.[5] In 1991, it was a founding affiliate of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions.[6] On 1 August 1995, it merged with the Amalgamated Engineering Union of South Africa, the Engineering, Industrial and Mining Workers' Union, and the Iron Moulders' Society of South Africa, to form the National Employees' Trade Union.[7][8]

General Secretaries

1920: Ben Caddy
1954: Tom Murray
1975: Ike van der Walt


  1. ^ a b Verwey, E. J. (1995). New Dictionary of South African Biography. HSRC Press. ISBN 0796916489.
  2. ^ Gitsham, Ernest; Trembath, James H. (1926). A first account of labour organisation in South Africa (PDF). Durban: E. P. & Commercial Printing. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Thomas Patrick Murray". South African History Online. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  4. ^ Davies, Robert H.; O'Meara, Dan; Dlamini, Sipho (1988). The Struggle for South Africa. Zed Books. ISBN 9780862327637.
  5. ^ Annual Report of the Chamber of Mines (1990), p.39
  6. ^ Murray, Martin J. (1994). Revolution Deferred. Verso. ISBN 9780860915775.
  7. ^ Finnemore, Martheanne (1997). Introduction to labour relations in South Africa. Butterworths. ISBN 9780409027969.
  8. ^ Steenkamp, C. L. (2004). THE RESTRUCTURING PROCESS OF THE SAMANCOR MANGANESE MINES (MAY 2000 -JUNE 2001). Potchefstroom: North West University.