Harriet’s resignation from the GWIU

Harriet made her resignation from the Garment union public at the beginning of July 1974. She claimed that she had reached an impasse with the Garment union executive over the question of organising African unions as they were in favour of adopting a more cautious approach to trade union affairs, particularly on the involvement with African unions.

By the end of 1974, the registered Bolton Hall unions had barred the unregistered unions from any use of their facilities, including the meeting hall.

TUCSA’s criticisms of her made it nearly impossible to continue with her work, and life, as she had known it. Black garment workers made it clear that her vision for the union’s future was vastly different to theirs. Harriet also felt that her work was impacting negatively on her children’s lives. Ultimately she felt the only solution was for her to leave.

Soon after she left, in 1974, Durban’s emerging unions lost all the support that they had received from the registered Bolton Hall unions. Harriet then left for England.

In an article outlining her reasons for leaving the country, she began by articulating her frustration with her TUCSA colleagues, capitalists’ unwillingness to challenge the state’s labour policies as cowardly, and commented on the selfishness of South Africa’s white middle class.

Harriet returned to South Africa in 1984, according to her at the behest of the ITGLWF who wanted her to intensify efforts to coordinate a better working relationship between the different textile and garment unions. She was also asked to help out part-time with the GWIU’s bookkeeping. 

Last updated : 03-Feb-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Feb-2014