The Building Construction and Allied Workers’ Union (BCAWU) was formed on 1 March 1975, and Leonard ‘Skakes’ Sikhakhane of SFAWU (The Sweet Food and Allied Workers Union)was elected its acting secretary. He was later replaced by Frank Mohlala.
BCAWU staked its claim as the first of the independent Black trade union to emerge during the 1970s and to organize specifically in the construction industry. In 1974, the construction workers who formed BCAWU were initially organized by the food and beverage affiliate of the labour federation that was to become the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU).
BCAWU and NACTU have historically been aligned with Black Consciousness and Africanist political organizations; the federation still has a close working relationship with the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
BCAWU was first established at a large construction company in Johannesburg. From there the organizing efforts spread to other areas in the city, leading to the establishment of other branches in other provinces. BCAWU started organizing in the Western Cape in 1983, targeting companies where workers were unorganized.
BCAWU identified as its overall aim defending the working class and to negotiate wages and other conditions of employment for its members, including benefits such as retirement and health care funds. The union also negotiated for advantageous benefits for its members in areas such as funeral plans, housing and personal investments.
BCAWU also educates members on their rights through meetings. It represents its members in the CETA accreditation process towards establishing the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). BCAWU members are also represented in the NEDLAC (National Economic Development and Labour Council) chamber through the union’s affiliation to NACTU.