The Women’s struggle Timeline 1905-2006

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Indian women workers, Durban’s clothing industry and the GWIU

By the time Harriet became General Secretary for the GWIU, Indian women started to enter the industry in significant numbers from 1960 while the number of Indian men employed in clothing factories, until then in the majority, started to decline. In 1965, membership of the GWIU was made up of 6648 male workers and 6715 female workers. By 1967 this had grown to 7582 female workers, while the number of males dropped to 6420. Indian workers made up just over 79% of workers in the industry.

Over the next three years, Harriet and the executive attempted to install more democracy into union structures and improve contact with workers. The union held a week-long election process for shop stewards, to guarantee that the elections in factories were as democratic as possible. The GWIU also initiated intensive shop steward training courses. The constitution was now altered to have two general union meetings a year and general shop steward meetings every three months. Shop stewards were also now called to special meetings if the need arose and emphasis was also put on factory meetings.

Last updated : 24-Oct-2016

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