History of Labour Movements in South Africa

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Institute of Industrial Education (IIU)

The Institute of Industrial Education (IIE) was founded in Durban and held its inaugurating meeting on 30 May 1973.  Its objective was to serve as a correspondence school for trade unionists and to provide basic information and skills for effective trade union activity for all races. Harriet Bolton who addressed delegates pointed out the acute need for educating workers, employers and the general public.

Bhekisisa Harold Nxasana was employed as an organizer for IIE and later made assistant principal of the institute. Bhekisisa Nxasana was drawn into the underground anti apartheid activities led by Harry Gwala, whom he later betrayed when he turned state witness leading to the imprisonment of Gwala and others.

A number of leading figures in the trade union movement served on IIE’s Working Committee. Among these were Harriet Bolton, Foszia Fisher, Halton Cheadle and David Henson. Fisher (the wife Richard Turner) served as the committee’s chairperson. 

The IIE also had a Council and an Academic Advisory Panel. The Council was made up of people from various institutions such as the South African Institute of Race Relations, and representatives of workers organizations. Mangosuthu Buthelezi was its chancellor and Lawrence Schlemme served as its chairperson. Institutions such as the University of Natal sat on the Academic Advisory Panel where they contributed in the preparation of educational material.

The IIE also founded the South Africa Labour Bulletin which reported “on general problems of the Trade Union Movement in South Africa and elsewhere.” The Editorial Board of the publication consisted of the entire Working Committee. After the banning of Halton Cheadle and Dave Hemson, the two influential trade union representatives who sat on its Working Committee, the IIE’s connection to union input was weakened. 

The IIE was heavily criticized in various quarters; one of these critics was Eddie Webster who accused it of being designed by people who did not interact with workers, and had no sense of their needs. Gwala also criticized it, saying it was handicapped in the sense that it could tell workers only what the rules were, whereas workers were more interested on higher wages and improvements in their working conditions.

IIE largely adopted workers and reformist positions on unionization; it was said to have placed more emphasis on some vaguely defined quest for human dignity.


References:
• Maree, J, THEINSTITUTE FOR INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION AND WORKER EDUCATION, from Digital Imaging South Africa (DISA), [online], Available at www.disa.ukzn.ac.za [Accessed 30 January 2013]

Last updated : 11-Feb-2013

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