Timeline of the 1973 Durban Strikes

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1972

October and December - Strikes at the Durban docks

October 1972 - when new wages for dockworkers were not implemented, stevedores in Cape Town and Durban stopped work and demanded a minimum wage equal to the PDL.

1973

Early January – 1,200 night watchmen go on strike, demanding a wage increase of R10 per month.

8 January - Rumours of an upcoming strike at Coronation Brick and Tile in Durban prompts management to issue pamphlets warning workers that communist agitators were at work among them.

9 January - All 2000 workers at Coronation Brick and Tile launch a spontaneous strike. They demand that their weekly wage of R8, 97 be increased to R30. King Goodwill Zwelethini intervenes, promising to represent the workers who refuse to put forward representatives for fear of arrest.

10 January - Workers at AJ Keeler demanded a wage increase of R2 a week but management rejects the demand on the grounds that workers were being paid R2 more than the Government stipulated minimum wage. The strike lasted  for only 45 minutes.

11 January- - Workers at TW Beckett & Co, a tea packing company, strike, demanding an increase of R3 a week. Police are called in and workers are told to return to work or face dismissal. Of the 150 strikers, about 100 decide to continue the strike. By 25 January the company agrees to raise wages by R3, 00 and to reinstate most of the dismissed workers, but ‘troublemakers’ were not rehired.

14 January, Coronation Brick and Tile workers appoint representatives, with Nathaniel Zulu as their leader. The leaders meet with management and agree to a weekly wage of R11, 50.

15 January – Workers at J.H. Akitt & Co,pany down tools

22 January - Drivers at Motor-Via in Pinetown, near Durban, picket for wage increases.

22 -24 January - Long distance truck drivers go on strike demanding R40 a week, and 250 of them are dismissed when they refuse the management’s wage offer. Most return to work by 25 January but 100 are dismissed.

25 January - Workers at Frametex Textile Company go on strike, and are joined by workers at other Frame group companies, in total about 6,000 workers. Although many go back to work many others at other Frame companies go on strike, and the strike spreads to other textile companies.

End of January - newspapers list 29 firms affected by strikes throughout Durban. The media, point to ‘shocking’ wage levels and uncaring industrialists as the cause of the strikes.

5 February - 3000 cleaners and other staff at Durban Corporation strike, and are joined the next day by 16,000 workers at other Durban Corporation departments, the total rising to 30,000 by the third day. They return to work by 8 February.

5 March, The Western Province Workers’ Advice Bureau (WPWAB) is established and an executive committee consisting of exclusively workers in elected. 

April - Industrial strikes erupt at the Mandini and Richard’s Bay industrial areas.

April, The Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU) is established and launched in Pietermaritzburg with the assistance of the General Workers Benefit Fund (GFWBF). Alpheus Mthethwa, an employee of the GFWBF is elected branch secretary.

11 September - Mine workers at Western Deep levels on strike against poverty wages are shot by the police while protesting -  12 miners are killed and 38 are wounded.

September - The National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW) is established at James Bolton Hall in Durban with the help of the GFWBF.  The government launches a crackdown on the union banning and detaining its leaders. The acting general secretary Hitlon Cheadle is detained and banned.

September, The Workers Advisory Project (WAP) is established.

NUSAS members together with former SACTU members form the Industrial Aid Society (IAS) in Witwatersrand. Amongst other aims, it sought to disseminate information, provide training and information service for workers and organizers. 

The Institute of Industrial Education (IIE) is founded in Durban and aims to serve as a correspondence school for trade unionists and provide basic information and skills for effective trade Union activity for all races. The institute also establishes the South Africa Labour Bulletin with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi as its Chancellor and Lawrence Schlemmer as its chairperson.

Last updated : 30-Nov-2015

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