1973 Durban Strikes

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Wiehahn Commission

In 1979, the Wiehahn Commission to investigate how to regulate labour legislation. The growth of unregistered trade unions, inadequate control over them, their unchecked receipt of funds and support from abroad was unacceptable to the State.

The Commission warned that Black workers were aware that trade unionism was a means to achieve change in the economic and political spheres of South Africa.

The Wiehahn Commission released its initial set of recommendations on 1 May 1979. The solution, the Commission advocated, was not to ban Black trade unions as this would drive them underground.

Among its recommendations were that Government recognise Black trade unions and migrant workers and encourage them to register, the establishment of a regulated unitary system of union registration, abolish job reservation, retain the closed shop bargaining system, create a National Manpower Commission, and to introduce an Industrial Court to resolve industrial litigation.  However, Black trade unions were still required to register with the state.

The Wiehahn Commission believed that these reforms were necessary to control the proliferation of Black trade unions in the 1970s. 

Last updated : 04-Feb-2014

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