Trade unions in Saint Helena

Trade unions in Saint Helena emerged in the late 1950s in the flax industry and subsequently played a prominent role in the island's democratisation in the 1960s. The Saint Helena General Workers Union was the island's sole trade union throughout the latter half of the 20th Century. In the 21st Century, workers are mostly organised in the public sector in staff associations for nurses, teachers and public servants.

Trade unions in Saint Helena
Primary legislationTrade Unions and Trade Disputes Ordinance, 1959 (revised 2017)
International Labour Organization
Saint Helena has separate territorial status but is an ILO member via the United Kingdom
Convention declaration
Freedom of Association26 May 1966
Right to Organise17 Jun 1966


In June 1958 the British Labour Party member of parliament, Cledwyn Hughes, visited the island and later reported to the Colonial Office that workers were living in "appalling poverty."[1] At a public meeting during the visit, discussion ensued on the need for a trade union.[2] The Saint Helena General Workers Union was established on 23 July 1958 and on 22 September 1958 a strike launched at the Sandy Bay flax mill.[3]

From 2000Edit

In 2001, the Saint Helena General Workers Union was estimated to have 700 members.[4]

In 2013, during the construction of the Saint Helena Airport, workers went on strike over employment terms and conditions; it was reported as the first industrial action on the island in half a century.[5]


  1. ^ "Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos". 2001-02-23. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  2. ^ Constantine, Stephen (2016-07-03). "Governor Sir John Field in St Helena: Democratic Reform in a Small British Colony, 1962–68" (PDF). The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 44 (4): 672–696. doi:10.1080/03086534.2016.1210811. ISSN 0308-6534. S2CID 151429240.
  3. ^ "Chronology | Saint Helena Island Info: All about St Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean". Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  4. ^ Docherty, James C. (2012). Historical Dictionary of Organized Labor. Van der Velden, Sjaak. (3rd ed.). Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 234. ISBN 9780810879881. OCLC 854520103.
  5. ^ "Labour dispute stops the construction of the St Helena airport in mid-Atlantic". MercoPress. Retrieved 2019-10-16.