1973 Durban Strikes

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Metal and Allied Workers Union

At a GFWBF meeting in Pietermaritzburg in April, metalworkers from two factories called for the establishment of a union. Two months later, the Metal and Allied Workers

Union (MAWU), with the assistance of the GFWBF, was launched in Pietermaritzburg in April 1973, while a Durban branch was launched later in the year.

Following MAWU’s formation, a report (May 1973) on the role and future of the Benefit Fund, suggested that a new strategy should be adopted. Trade unions should be formed first, and benefits should follow.

In 1975, it expanded to the Transvaal. However, it remained weak country wide throughout the1970s, MAWU also grew rapidly and claimed a combined membership of 3,883 by July 1974. By August 1974, MAWU reported a membership of 6500, with a third of these paid up.

While it formally boycotted any participation in wage and liaison committees, the union fought for recognition at a variety of companies.

MAWU did have some success with the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF). Although MAWU’s initial application was unsuccessful, the IMF was impressed by the Leyland strike and invited MAWU to join.

MAWU also established relations with the registered National Union of Motor Assembly and Rubber Workers of South Africa (NUMARWOSA) and its parallel the United Automobile,

Rubber and Allied Workers Union (UAW) which would later prove critical in the formation of a new national federation.

Last updated : 27-Jan-2017

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