South African Trades and Labour Council

The South African Trades and Labour Council (SAT&LC) was a national trade union federation in South Africa.



The federation was founded in 1930, when the South African Trades Union Council merged with the Cape Federation of Labour Unions.[1] The federation was broadly split between the craft unions and mining unions, which generally only admitted white workers and took conservative positions; and a growing number of industrial unions, which admitted white, Asian and "coloured" members, and often worked closely with unions representing black workers.[2]

In 1944, the federation adopted the Workers' Charter, which aimed to bring about a socialist government.[3] In 1947, some unions of white workers resigned in opposition to the SAT&LC admitting black workers, and they formed the pro-apartheid Co-ordinating Council of South African Trade Unions.[4][5] A further group of right-wing craft unions left in 1951 to form the South African Federation of Trade Unions.[6]

In 1950, the Government of South Africa introduced the Suppression of Communism Act, which made it extremely difficult to maintain unions open to both black and white workers. The SAT&LC became increasingly divided, with some unions supporting the liberation of black workers, reform of the federation's discriminatory constitution, and the formation of local committees to organise all workers. Other unions, principally those craft unions already restricted to white workers, opposed these ideas. In 1954, they walked out of the federation's congress, and founded the new Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA), which did not accept black workers.[3]

Nineteen SAT&LC affiliates refused to join the TUCSA, and instead former a Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee. In 1955, this merged with the Council of Non-European Trade Unions, to form the South African Congress of Trade Unions.[3]



The following unions were affiliated in 1947:[2]

Union Abbreviation Founded[7] Membership (1947)
African Cement Workers' Union 147
African Commercial and Distributive Workers' Union 375
African Sweet Workers' Union 1937 325
Agricultural Workers' Federation 1,057
Amalgamated Bricklayers' Trade Union of South Africa 1,225
Amalgamated Engineering Union AEU 1893 7,608
Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers ASW 1881 3,793
Brewery Employees' Union 1929 225
Building Workers' Industrial Union BWIU 1916 7,334
Cape Explosive Industrial Workers' Union 1927 225
Cape Furniture Workers' Union 1,250
Cape Meat Trade Employees' Union 199
Cape Mineral Water Workers' Union 138
Cape Plywood Workers' Industrial Union 135
Cape Saw Mill Workers' Union 150
Cape Town Gas Workers' Union 60
Cape Town Lift Operators' Union 11
Cape Western District Bespoke Tailors' Union 300
Chemical and Allied Workers' Union 259
Chemical Workers' Union 1943 180
Concession Stores and Allied Trades Assistants' Union 1926 668
Durban Indian Municipal Employees' Society DIMES 1936 1,801
Durban Municipal Transport Employees' Union 1926 500
East London and Border Furniture Workers' Union 145
East London Transport Workers' Union 84
Explosive and Fertiliser Workers' Union 750
Food and Canning Workers' Union FCWU 1941 2,025
Food, Canning and Allied Workers' Union 540
Furniture Workers' Industrial Union (Natal) 1930 807
Furniture Workers' Industrial Union (Transvaal) FWIU 1925 1,610
Garment Workers' Industrial Union GWIU 1934 2,180
Garment Workers' Union GWUSA 1909 11,870
General Building Workers' Union 135
Glass Workers' Union GWU 1943 359
Glass Manufacturing Workers' Union 56
Hotel, Bar and Catering Trade Employees' Union HB&CTEA 1,050
Iron Moulders' Society of South Africa IMS 1896 1,182
Jewellers' and Goldsmiths' Society J&G 1939 180
Johannesburg Municipal Transport Workers' Union JMTWU 1935 1,750
Match Workers' Union 1944 93
Match Workers' Industrial Union 150
Mineral Water Workers' Union 1944 75
Motor Industry Employees' Union MIEU 1939 4,753
Natal Liquor and Catering Trade Employees' Union NL&CTEU 1928 875
Natal Sugar Industry Employees' Union 1938 887
National Baking Industrial Union 1927 354
National Union of Laundering, Cleaning and Dyeing Workers NULCDW 1940 575
National Union of Commercial Travellers 1937 1,274
National Union of Distributive Workers NUDW 1936 7,420
Oil and Petrol Employees' Union 944
Operative Plasterers' Trade Union of South Africa 248
Optical Workers' Union 59
Picture Framing Workers' Industrial Union 9
Port Elizabeth Non-European Municipal Workers' Union 193
Port Elizabeth Tram and Bus Workers' Union 1930 329
Pretoria Liquor and Catering Trade Employees' Union 1925 160
Pretoria Municipal Tram and Bus Workers' Union 1942 329
Pretoria Retail Meat Trade Employees' Union 92
Public Service and Provincial Council Workers' Union 796
Rope and Mat Workers' Industrial Union 1937 177
Shoe and Leather Repairer Workers' Union (Cape) 97
Shoe and Leather Repairer Workers' Union (Port Elizabeth) 27
South African Association of Municipal Employees SAAME 1919 7,519
South African Boilermakers' Society SABS 1916 2,501
South African Canvas and Rope Workers' Union SAC&RWU 1926 180
South African Canvas and Rope Workers' Union (Cape) 35
South African Electrical Workers' Association SAEWA 1939 3,784
South African Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association SAED&FA 1894 2,616
South African Hairdressers' Employees' Industrial Union SAHEIU 1944 1,788
South African Iron and Steel Trades Association ISTA 1936 1,788
South African Mine Workers' Union MWU 1902 17,500
South African Reduction Workers' Association SARWA 1924 2,500
South African Society of Bank Officials SASBO 1916 5,300
South African Tin Workers' Union SATWU 1939 1,843
South African Typographical Union SATU 1898 7,088
Sweet Workers' Union SWU 1926 1,843
Tailoring Workers' Industrial Union 1934 725
Tea, Coffee and Chicory Industry Employees' Union 1943 94
Tea, Coffee and Chicory Industry Employees' Union (Cape) 67
Textile Workers' Industrial Union TWIU 1935 1,625
Timber Workers' Union 75
Tin Workers' Union 263
Tobacco Workers' Union 1928 1,005
Tramway and Omnibus Workers' Union TOWU 933
Transvaal Explosives and Chemical Workers' Union 1925 480
Transvaal Leather and Allied Trades Industrial Union TL&ATIU 1928 1,651
Transvaal Retail Meat Trade Employees' Union 1938 410
Trawler and Line Fishermen's Union 175
Twine and Bag Workers' Union 1942 113
Umbogintwini Industrial Workers' Union 72
Wholesale Meat Factory and Cold Storage Workers' Industrial Union 58
Witwatersrand Banking Employees' Association 1934 420
Witwatersrand Liquor and Catering Trade Employees' Union Wit Liquor 1926 370
Witwatersrand Taxi Drivers' Union 1941 97
Witwatersrand Tea Room, Restaurant and Catering Trade Employees' Union 1930 994

General Secretaries

1930: William H. Andrews
1932: Alexander Gordon Forsyth
1937: Willie de Vries
1948: Alexander Gordon Forsyth
1951: Harry Boyder and Dulcie Hartwell
1953: Dulcie Hartwell


  1. ^ Kiloh, Margaret; Sibeko, Archie (2000). A Fighting Union. Randburg: Ravan Press. p. xxxii. ISBN 0869755277.
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Jon (1984). Industrialisation and Trade Union Organization in South Africa, 1924-1955. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521263123.
  3. ^ a b c "South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU)". South African History Online. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  4. ^ Lichtenstein, Alex (March 2004). "'The Hope for White and Black'? Race, Labour and the State in South Africa and the United States, 1924-1956". Journal of Southern African Studies. 30 (1).
  5. ^ Miller, Shirley (1982). Trade Unions in South Africa 1970-1980: a directory and statistics. Cape Town: Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit. ISBN 0799204692.
  6. ^ Simons, Harold; Simons, Ray (1987). One Hundred Years of Job Reservation on the South African Mines. International Labour Office. ISBN 9789221061588.
  7. ^ Alexander, Peter (2000). Workers, War & the Origins of Apartheid. J. Currey. ISBN 9780852557655.