1973 Durban Strikes

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National Union of Textile Workers

In June 1973, the Textile Workers Industrial Union (TWIU) Congress resolved to establish a parallel, unregistered union for African workers, the National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW). 

The National Union if Textile Workers (NUTW) was launched at a meeting of 500 workers, largely women, on 23 September 1973.

Halton Cheadle was elected Natal Organising Secretary, June-Rose Nala its Secretary and Mr Manyathi the Branch Chairperson. Wiseman Mbali was one of its first organisers in Natal.

The Benefit Fund cards of 800 members were converted to membership cards.

It was formally established at its inaugural meeting at the Bolton Hall in Durban, with 300 workers in attendance. The Union of Clothing and Allied Workers was formed in late August, and the Furniture and Timber Workers Union in September. The new unions were formed under constant surveillance and harassment from the Special Branch.

Intimidation from police was a constant, and Bolton Hall support allowed them some form of legitimacy and protection.

Works Committee members were also not exempt from employer pressure. Frame’s threat to fire workers involved with setting up  the African textile union, as well as a number of incidences where workers had been unfairly dismissed, prompted the national organiser, Halton Cheadle, to put forward the idea of setting up a victimisation fund at the June meeting of the Branch Executive Committee for the Natal textile union.

By mid 1974, the NUTW had recruited some 5000 members. The NUTW continued to work closely with the TWIU, and these unions made great strides in creating unity between African and Indian workers.  

Last updated : 04-Feb-2014

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