History of Labour Movements in South Africa

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General Factory Workers Benefit fund (GFWBF)

The General Factory Workers Benefit Fund (GFWBF) was formed on 9 September 1972 by Harriet Bolton, Michael Halton Cheadle, David Hemson, David Davies, Foszia Fisher and Karel Tip and Rick Turner, a leading labour and political activist. During this period it was illegal for black workers to belong to a registered trade union, as a consequence black workers joined the benefit fund as it functioned as a cover for trade union activities. After the Durban strike thousands of workers joined the fund.

Amongst other activities, the GFWBF acted as watchdog looking after the interests of workers such as attending to complaints submitted by employees, mediating between the employer and employees and offering legal advice to workers when the employers refuse to attended to workers’ complaints. 

GFWBF had an executive of 20 members who mostly were from the Clothing and Furniture industries and a staff of 11 from both Pietermaritzburg and Durban. In its first year of operation the fund used the Garment Workers Union for operation free of charge. It experienced police raids and intimidation.

On the 31 January 1974, its administrative officer David Davis was banned and prohibited from working in any trade union. This did not end there; members of the fund also experienced harassment and intimidation from officials. On 20 May 1974, the police force’s commercial branch, CID, visited both the Durban and Pietermaritzburg branches with search warrants, alleging that the fund was unregistered and confiscating its records, which were never returned.


References:
• The General Factory Workers Benefit Fund, from Digital Imaging South Africa (DISA), [online], Available at www.disa.ukzn.ac.za [Accessed 30 January 2013]
•  Sithole, J, and Ndlovu, S., ‘The Revival of the Labour Movement, 1970”“1980’ in The Road to Democracy in South Africa, Volume 2, 1970-1980, (Pretoria ”“UNISA), p.202

Last updated : 21-Sep-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 05-Feb-2013