1973 Durban Strikes

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Central Administration Services

Following the 1973 strikes, workers flocked to Bolton Hall to sign up with the General Factory Workers Benefit Fund (GFWBF). Membership grew from two-thousand before the strikes, to ten-thousand by the end of 1973.

Realising the need for a coordinated and effective administration for the GFWBF, as well as other anticipated new worker organisations, the Central Administration Services (CAS) was formed.

The CAS’s objective was to provide clerical and organisationaladministration to the “smaller and poorer worker organisations”. The reasoning was that unions were only as strong as its membership, but also only as effective as the efficiency that their administration allowed. The CAS constitution specifically stated that membership was open to any organisationrepresenting workers in Natal, and it was stressed that affiliation to TUCSA was not required.

Reg Vial, who was then the assistant secretary of the GWIU, was appointed secretary of CAS and Harriet Bolton was the chair, a position she held until her move to England in 1975. In an effort to get protection for the emerging worker organisationsfrom employer and state hostility, a formalised relationship between the KwaZulu Government and CAS was envisaged: “After Chief M.G. Buthelezi had been approached, he accepted the idea and referred all labour dealings to Barney I. Dladla, the Minister of Community Affairs, a portfolio which included responsibility for labour matters. Up until this point, the Bolton

Hall group’s relationship with the KwaZulu Homeland government had been informal.

When the Trade Union Advisory Coordinating Council (TUACC) was formed on 6 January 1974, the CAS was the administrative centre to provide support to each union, including book-keeping and secretarial services. CAS would counteract the tendency of unions to follow their own separate industrial issues by building a common apparatus.

With the formation of independent unions, the need for CAS to mobilise registered unions in a drive to organise African workers fell away. Barring the TWIU, registered unions withdrew from meetings and CAS mainly served as an administrative centre that provided clerical services for the new unions.

Last updated : 04-Feb-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 04-Feb-2014