South African Trades Union Congress

The South African Trades Union Congress (TUC) was a national trade union federation in South Africa.

The council was established in 1924, as the South African Association of Employees' Organisations. It was founded at a special congress, held after the collapse of the South African Industrial Federation, which was called by the Minister of Labour, Frederic Creswell. All the affiliated unions were registered under the Industrial Conciliation Act 1924 and represented white workers. The federation was expected to be very moderate, but unexpectedly elected the leading communist Bill Andrews as its general secretary.[1][2][3] As president, it elected Jimmy Briggs, a Labour Party Senator.[4]

The unexpected radicalism of the federation led some long-established unions not to affiliate, while the Mine Workers' Union and South African Typographical Union soon resigned their membership. They were replaced by small industrial unions, many open to all workers. The federation also began working closely with the South African Federation of Non-European Trade Unions.[1] In 1930, the federation merged with the Cape Federation of Labour Unions, forming the South African Trades and Labour Council.[2]



The federation's founding affiliates were:[1]

Union Abbreviation Founded Membership (1926)[4]
Affiliated Plasterers' Trade Union of South Africa 1896 193
Amalgamated Building Trade Union of South Africa ABTU 510
Amalgamated Engineering Union AEU 1893 2,800
Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers ASW 1881 2,600
Baking Employees' Association 330
Building Workers' Industrial Union BWIU 1916 2,000
Johannesburg Tramwaymen's Union 700
Mineral Water Employees' Union
Mine Workers' Union MWU 1902 2,500
Natal Mine Workers' Union 1916 300
National Vehicle Builders' Union 250
South African Association of Municipal Employees SAAME 1919 2,700
South African Boilermakers' Society SABS 1916 800
South African Co-ordinated Employees' Association
South African Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association SAED&FA 1894 1,230
South African Reduction Workers' Association SARWA 920
South African Shop Assistants', Warehousemen's, Clerks' and Hairdressers' Association 870
South African Society of Bank Officials SASBO 1916 3,800
South African Typographical Union AATU 1898 3,700
Witwatersrand Tailors' Association 1909 1,000
Women Workers' General Union 1925 N/A


  1. ^ a b c Lewis, Jon (1984). Industrialisation and Trade Union Organization in South Africa, 1924-1955. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521263123.
  2. ^ a b Kiloh, Margaret; Sibeko, Archie (2000). A Fighting Union. Randburg: Ravan Press. p. xxxii. ISBN 0869755277.
  3. ^ Wessel Visser, 'Exporting Trade Unionism and Labour Politics: the British Influence on the early South African Labour Movement', New Contree 49 (2005), 145-62
  4. ^ a b 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.