Trade Union Council of South Africa

The Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA) was a national trade union federation in South Africa.



The council was founded in October 1954 by 61 unions which split from the South African Trades and Labour Council. They decided that only registered unions would be permitted to affiliate.[1] Because unions representing black workers were not permitted to register, this meant they were excluded from the council. A few retained links with TUCSA affiliates, and established the parallel Federation of Free African Trade Unions of South Africa.[2] The federation was initially named the South African Trades Union Council. In 1957, it affiliated to the new South African Confederation of Labour, which aimed to bring together all registered unions in the country, but it withdrew the following year, finding many of the other unions were explicitly white nationalist. The experience led it to change its name to the "Trade Union Council of South Africa", to avoid any similarity of names with the confederation it had left.[3][1]

In 1962, TUCSA changed its statues to allow "black unions" to affiliate, but in 1965 the Amalgamated Engineering Union of South Africa (AEU) disaffiliated in protest at this. Two years later, the South African Typographical Union proposed splitting the council into two sections, one with registered unions only, and one with the more inclusive policy. Instead, the thirteen black unions decided to disaffiliate, in order to prevent a split.[1][4] Many of the pro-government craft unions then followed the AEU in resigning, and faced with collapse, in 1969, TUCSA decided to once again restrict its membership to registered unions.[5] This led some craft unions to reaffiliate.[4]

With TUCSA's African affairs section closed, some of its officials formed the Urban Training Project, to encourage black workers to form new unions.[5] From 1973, TUCSA recommended that its affiliates form parallel unions to represent black workers, but their weak position led independent black unions to argue that the parallel unions were simply puppets controlled by the registered unions, the registered unions hoping to preserve wage differentials and reduce militancy and political activism among black workers.[4][5]

In 1974, TUCSA once again began admitting black unions,[1] and some unions which had emerged from the Urban Training Project did join.[5] From 1979, unions were legally permitted to represent all workers, and several TUCSA affiliates began to do so. In 1982, the council refused to join a general strike following the murder of Neil Aggett, and this led many unions to disaffiliate. In December 1986, with 32 affiliates remaining but only 170,000 members, the council decided to dissolve.[1][4][6]



In 1982, the following unions were affiliated:

Union Abbreviation Founded Membership (1962)[7] Membership (1980)[1]
African Leather Workers' Union ALWU 1946 N/A 2,000
African Tobacco Workers' Union ATUWU 1954 N/A 1,138
African Transport Workers' Union ATWU 1973 N/A 2,273
African Trunk and Box Workers' Union 1950s N/A 25
Amalgamated Engineering Union AEU 1893 17,608 N/A
Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers ASW 1881 4,680 N/A
Artisan Staff Association ASA 1924 N/A 22,500
Association of Cape Furniture Workers 160 N/A
Association of Cinema Projectionists 455 32
Bay Bus Workers' Union N/A
Brewery Employees' Union 1929 229 N/A
Cape Furniture Workers' Union 1,490 N/A
Chemical and Allied Workers' Union 1937 N/A 522
Chemical Workers' Union 1943 N/A 710
Cinematograph Projectionists' Union (Coloured) N/A 68
Concession Stores and Allied Trades' Assistants' Union CS&ATAU 1926 510 257
Durban Integrated Municipal Employees' Society DIMES 1936 N/A 3,986
Durban Rubber Industrial Union DRIU 280 194
East London Divisional Council Employees' Union 60 N/A
East London Liquor and Catering Trades' Employees' Union ELL&CTEU N/A 60
East London Meat Trade Union 96 N/A
East London Municipal Transport Workers' Union of South Africa ELMTWU 77 54
Engineering Industrial Workers' Union of South Africa EIWUSA 1961 N/A 11,849
Funeral Undertakers' Union 61 N/A
Furniture Workers' Industrial Union FWIU 1925 875 N/A
Garment Workers' Industrial Union GWIU 1934 9,000 28,004
Garment Workers' Union of South Africa GWUSA 1909 11,315 5,993
Garment Workers' Union of the Western Province GWU-WP 1927 16,000 46,000
Glassworkers' Union GWU 1943 260 436
Grave Diggers' and Cemetery Employees' Union 98 N/A
Hotel, Bar and Catering Trades' Employees' Association HB&CTEA 1,000 2,500
Iron Moulders' Society of South Africa IMS 1896 2,400 2,378
Johannesburg Municipal Combined Employees' Association N/A 508
Johannesburg Municipal Transport Workers' Union JMTWU 1935 1,500 890
Johannesburg Municipal Workers' Union 400 200
Kaffraria Divisional Council Employees' Association N/A 51
Mine Surface Officials' Association of South Africa MSOA 1919 N/A 13,868
Motor Industry Combined Workers' Union MICWA 1961 N/A 13,135
Motor Industry Employees' Union MIEU 1939 14,340 N/A
Motor Transport Workers' Union N/A 405
Natal Baking Industry Employees' Union NBaIEU 1965 N/A 550
Natal Liquor and Catering Trades' Employees' Union NL&CTEU 1928 4,328 3,357
Natal Passenger Transport Employees' Union NPTEU N/A 400
National Union of Bank Employees N/A 2,631
National Union of Cigarette and Tobacco Workers NUC&TW 1928 1,038 668
National Union of Clothing Workers NUCW 1962 N/A 21,418
National Union of Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers NUCCAW 1966 N/A 5,571
National Union of Distributive Workers NUDW 1936 11,936 5,328
National Union of Furniture and Allied Workers NUFAW 1925 N/A 21,665
National Union of Laundry, Cleaning and Dyeing Workers LC&DWUSA 1940 N/A 993
National Union of Leather Workers NULW 1924 12,340 20,810
National Union of Operative Biscuit Makers and Packers NUOBMiP 1937 1,157 642
Operative Bakers', Confectioners' and Van Conductors' Union 469 N/A
Operative Plasterers' Trade Union 200 N/A
Photographic Employees' Union 75 N/A
Radio, Television, Electronic and Allied Workers' Union RTEAWU 1969 N/A 1,125
South African Bank Employees' Union 1973 N/A 765
South African Boilermakers', Iron and Steel Makers', Shipbuilders' and Welders' Society SABS 1916 6,000 18,400
South African Canvas and Ropeworkers' Union SAC&RWU 1926 338 150
South African Canvas and Ropeworkers' Union of the Cape N/A 405
South African Electrical Workers' Association SAEWA 1939 8,000 N/A
South African Hairdressers' Employees' Industrial Union SAHEIU 1944 2,879 4,056
South African Society of Bank Officials SASBO 1916 11,482 21,044
South African Theatre and Cinema Employees' Union SAT&CEU 1,622 991
South African Theatre Union N/A 550
South African Typographical Union SATU 1896 15,376 26,818
South African Woodworkers' Union N/A 1,429
Sweet Workers' Industrial Union 160 N/A
Sweet Workers' Union SWU 1925 778 1,396
Tailoring Workers' Industrial Union 1934 545 N/A
Textile Workers' Industrial Union TWIU 1935 N/A 6,227
Textile Workers' Union TWU 1973 N/A 850
Tramway and Omnibus Workers' Union TOWU 1,967 2,216
Tramway Officials' Staff Association 92 N/A
Transport Workers' Union N/A 222
Transvaal Broom and Brush Workers' Industrial Union 54 N/A
Transvaal Leather and Allied Trades Industrial Union TL&ATIU 1928 3,000 1,638
Transvaal Musicians' Union N/A 314
Trawler and Line Fishermen's Union 1942 640 1,140
Trunk and Box Workers' Industrial Union TBWU 1937 100 100
Witwatersrand Baking Employees' Association 1934 300 N/A
Witwatersrand Liquor and Catering Trade Employees' Union Wit Liquor 1926 N/A 2,590
Witwatersrand Tearoom, Restaurant and Catering Trade Employees' Union 1930 1,000 900

General Secretaries

1954: Dulcie Hartwell[8]
1962: Terence O'Donoghue[8]
1963: Arthur Grobbelaar[8]
1985: Position vacant[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  2. ^ Carter, Gwendolen; Johns, Sheridan. "Interview with Alexander Hepple" (PDF). JSTOR. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  3. ^ Verwey, E.J. (1999). New Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume 1. HSRC Press. pp. 220–221. ISBN 9780796916488.
  4. ^ a b c d "Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA)". South African History Online. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Ncube, Don (1985). Black trade unions in South Africa. Braamfontein: Skotaville. pp. 104–109. ISBN 0947009051.
  6. ^ Money, Duncan (2020). The Struggle for Legitimacy: South Africa's Divided Labour Movement and International Labour Organisations, 1919 – 2019. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  7. ^ Wirtz, W. Willard (1962). Directory of Labor Organizations: Africa. Washington DC: Bureau of International Labor Affairs. pp. 37.14–37.25.
  8. ^ a b c d "TRADE UNION COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 2, 1955-1985". Historical Papers Research Archive. University of the Witwatersrand. Retrieved 21 March 2021.