Wiehahn Commission Report tabled in parliament

Durban StrikesDurban Strikes

Date: 1 May, 1979

On 1 May 1979, the first interim report of the Wiehahn Commission is tabled in Parliament. The Wiehahn Commission was set up by the government after the Durban strikes of 1973 and the Soweto uprisings of 1976 to look at industrial relations system in South Africa. Two years later the commission made recommendations that the Labour Relations act be amended to grant Black trade unions legal recognition and encourage them to register. The Wiehahn commission believed that these reforms were necessary to control the proliferation of Black trade unions in the 1970s.

Its recommendations were that government makes sweeping changes to include the following:

  • Legal recognition of Black trade unions and migrant workers
  • Abolition of statutory job reservation
  • Retention of the closed shop bargaining system
  • The creation of a National Manpower Commission, and
  • The introduction of an Industrial Court to resolve industrial litigation

Because the report recommended reforms that would increase the political rights and political participation of Black South Africans in the economy and politics of the country, the report was welcomed in trade union and business circles. However, Black trade unions were still required to register with the state. The apartheid government used this registration process as a tool to maintain control, and its suppression of Black trade unions continued albeit in a more constrained political environment. However, the legal recognition of Black trade unions made them more effective as they could organize more easily and it extended the rights of workers.

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