South Africa: Trades Unions Material

Scope and Content

Speeches, pamphlets, leaflets, letters, newsletters, posters, press releases and journals at national and local levels issued by the African Mine Workers' Union, the Cape African Teachers' Association, the Cape Peninsula Students' Union, the Cape Teachers' Professional Association, Cosatu, the Council of Non-European Trade Unions, the Council of Unions of South Africa, the Federation of South African Nurses and Midwives, the Federation of South African Trade Unions, the Food and Canning Workers' Union (South Africa), the Garment and Textile Workers' Unions' Consultative Committee (South Africa), the Garment Workers Industrial Union (Natal), the Garment Workers Union (South Africa), the Georgetown and District Bantu Land Owners Association, the Glass and Allied Workers' Union (South Africa), the I.C.U. (South Africa), the Kaaplandse Professionele Onderwysersunie, the National Union of Clothing Workers (S.A.), the National Union of Leather Workers (South Africa), the National Union of Mineworkers (South Africa), the National Union of South African Students, the South African Allied Workers' Unions, the South African Canvas and Ropeworkers' Union (Cape), the South African Congress of Trade Unions, the South African Federation of Leather Trade Unions, the South African Tin Workers' Union, the South African Trades and Labour Council, the Student Representative Council (University of Cape Town), the Textile Workers' Industrial Union (South Africa), the Trade Union Council of South Africa, the Western Province Meat Trade Employees Union (South Africa), and the Western Province Motor Assembly Workers' Union (South Africa).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Industrial Conciliation Bill of 1923 which followed the 1922 miner's strike was the first step in a process that led to the trade union movement becoming split into two distinct sections. Firstly there were unions based mainly on white labour (but also including a minority of skilled 'coloured' and Indian workers) which, if at all, only permitted African membership of separate 'parallel' organisations. The second group of unions consisted of those initially based on African workers, later open to all, who were largely excluded from the industrial conciliation system. Both groups are represented in the materials here, which deal amongst other issues with the arguments concerning the degree to which unions should or could be 'non-political' under the apartheid system, and the extent to which members of the 'recognised' unions benefitted as a consequence of the limited access of the non-white worker to wage increases and better paid jobs. Concerns limited to particular trades and industries are also dealt with. of how the outlawing of various political parties left a greater space for other organisations to contest these issues.


Alphabetically by group, and then in rough chronological order.

Access Information

Open to all for research purposes; access is free for anyone in higher education.

Acquisition Information

Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Other Finding Aids

Records at item level on library catalogue (SASCAT)

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Daniel Millum, Political Archives Project Officer at the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies

Conditions Governing Use

Copies can usually be obtained - apply to library staff.

Custodial History

The Commonwealth Political Parties Materials collection was begun in 1960-61, with special emphasis being placed then, as now, on "primary material such as party constitutions, policy statements, convention reports and election manifestos." (ICS, Twelfth Annual Report 1960-1961). Since then, the main method of gathering material has been to appeal directly to political parties throughout the Commonwealth, though contributions from Institute members and staff following visits to relevant countries have been significant. More recently South African material has been collected by means of downloading documents from the websites of significant groups and movements.


Further accruals are expected, some in electronic form.

Related Material

See also South Africa: Pressure Group Material (PG.SA) and South Africa: Political Party Material (PP.SA), as well as Political Party, Trades Unions and Pressure Group Materials for other Commonwealth countries, the Ruth First Papers (ICS 117), and related material in the library's main classified sequence, all held at the ICS.