Home Union History Important Dates
PDF Print E-mail
Article Index
Key Dates : Jaunuary-April
Key Dates : May-August
Key Dates : September-December
All Pages

Key Dates in the History of Sactwu



We remember:

7 January 1919: The first mass trade union of black workers formed in Cape Town – the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU)

9 January 1973: The Durban strikes start

18 January 1973: East London Consolidated Fine Spinners and Weavers (Frame) 1000 workers strike for wage increase.

26-30 January 1973: 10 000 Frame workers strike in Natal

27 January 1990: Sactwu launches its leather workers membership drive with a blitz in Wellington the town where Western Tanning Co. is situated.

7 January 1992: Sactwu and employers present a plan to government to save jobs in our industry and create more jobs.

31 January 1998: Nictex blanket workers strike for more wages.

21-26 January 2002: Sactwu holds its second annual National Organising and Negotiating School for staff in Simonstown in the Western Cape Region. The school has set the pace to reshape our industry and created a strong machine capable of achieving the goals adopted at our 2001 National Congress

26 January 2003: First-ever National Textile Bargaining Council is registered, a significant step forward in the union’s long campaign for centralised bargaining in the textile industry.



We remember:

1-17 February 1991: Over 1000 SANS workers go on strike for higher wages.

3 February 1998: Table Bay Spinners strike in support of industry- wide-cotton-worker demands.

4 February 1973: Smith and Nephew Textile strike of 600 workers for more wages.

9-15 February1991: First national organiser training course is held at Oakford Priory in Natal.

12 February 1958: 2000 workers sacked during a strike at Amato Textiles in Transvaal.

15 February 1988: Cape Cotton workers strike for June 16 as a public holiday, and higher wages.

17 February 1986: BKB woolworkers in Port Elizabeth strike.

21 February 1985: Workers at SA Nylon Spinners go on strike

22 February 1983: Bata shoe workers in Kwazulu, members of NUTW, strike

5-6 February 2000: Sactwu hosted its first ever, negotiating school for staff, in Brackenfell, Cape Town. The focus of the negotiating school was to prepare the union for the challenges in collective bargaining and within our industry

1-28 February 2002: Sactwu Recruitment Offensive starts.

9 February 2002: Sactwu launches its Regional Servicing Conferences throughout the country. The aim of the conferences was to find new ways and means to improve the services the union provides to its members.

27 Feb/1March 2002: 1000 David Whitehead workers in Durban, strike in defence and protection of worker rights. The strike was the largest and strongest protected wage related legal strike in the textile industry since 1993 and ended victoriously in favour of the workers.

28 February – 3 March 2002: Sactwu holds its first-ever National Bargaining and Servicing Conference in East London. The theme of the Conference was "Buy local, save jobs, crush poverty, build Sactwu".

3 February 2003: Sactwu annual Recruitment Offensive starts.

10-14 February 2003: The ITGWLF holds first-ever organisational building workshop for the Ramatex Group of companies in Namibia. Thobeka Platyi and Frans Xola of Sactwu’s Border North Branch represent Sactwu at the workshop.

28 February 2003 : Sactwu Annual Bargaining Conference starts in East London. The theme of the Conference was “Buy local, save jobs, crush poverty, build Sactwu”.




We remember:

12 March 1956: Workers at Hextex in Worcester go on strike for 4 days in support of a demand for higher wages.

5 March 1980: 300 African and coloured women at Berkshire clothing factory go on strike over production bonuses

8-9 March 1991: Cosatu Campaigns Conference which adopted Worker Charter constitutional demands for a post-apartheid South Africa

14-15 March 1992: Fifty worker leaders convene in East London at the first ever national shop stewards council.

21 March 1960: Massacre at Sharpeville, as police kill 69 peaceful protesters against pass laws.

24 March 1993: Over 2000 Da Gama workers strike for 47 days in support of a demand for higher wages.This is one of the longest strikes in Sactwu.

11-12 March 2000: Sactwu’s annual Bargaining Conference takes place in East London. The theme of the conference was "Promoting Bargaining in the Fashion Industry"

March 2000: Tens of thousands of Cosatu members participate in peaceful demonstrations, in all industrial areas, throughout the country. The action was a direct reaction to the thousands of jobs lost over the past few years and in protest to government’s macro-economic policy.

5-6 March 2002: Sactwu and the Department of Labour raid clothing companies in Newcastle, Kwazulu Natal. The raid revealed that many companies do not comply with the labour laws of our country, in particular health and safety and security standards and conditions of employment.

12 March 2002: Sactwu launches its Creative Writing Project in the Western Cape region. The project is the first of its kind for a trade union in South Africa and has been designed to unlock the creativity of young learners, to promote literacy and motivate the learners to become the writers of the future. the project forms part of our Social and Welfare Programme.

3 March 2003: Sactwu’s non-metro recruitment campaign starts. The aim of the campaign is to sign up 8000 new members.




We remember:

1 April 1992: Cosatu meets with the Minister of Finance to discuss the setting up of a National Economic Forum in order to negotiate over jobs and economic matters.

7 April 1992: A 16-day strike at Pep Textiles in Transkei ends, with workers winning a 17% wage increase.

25 April 1998:2000 Rex Trueform clothing workers conduct a strike ballot, to force employers to increase the very low wages in the industry.

April 1991: Open School.

15 April 2000:Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Beauty Thys a key Sactwu shop steward from Riverside Tanning in the Eastern Cape.

28 April 2000:Lillian Malan, first ever Sactwu female regional chairperson, dies peacefully, two days before her 40th birthday. She was a shop steward at Charmfit in the Western Cape, for sixteen years.

April 2002: House of Monatic, a clothing company in the Western Cape region becomes the 100th member of Proudly South Africa. House of Monatic is one of South Africa's oldest and largest manufacturers of world-class mens- wear and is fully organised by Sactwu.

15 April 2003:Launch of the Chris Hani Institute in Johannesburg. The aim of the institute is to promote intellectual engagement, research and scholarship that is directed at finding answers to the problems that the country faces, and to do so within a perspective that promotes broad socialists goals, from a working class perspective. Sactwu’s General Secretary elected to the board of the Institute.

17 April 2003:Sactwu’s National Office-bearers meet with the Cosatu National Office-bearers.

April 2003: Sactwu’s first ever closed ballot in the textile industry commences.





We remember:

1st May: International Labour Day

1st May 1886: 350 000 American workers strike for an 8 hour day and a 40 hour week.

2 May 1986: Start of 21 day Rex Trueform strike.

2-3 May 1991:Sactwu holds an Economics Conference and invites employers and international trade union speakers to attend.

4 May 1992: The 1992 national clothing wage campaign starts with meetings in Natal with employers.

8 May 1952: The government bans Solly Sachs, secretary of the Transvaal Garment Union.

11 May 1935: Blanket workers strike in Transvaal: 250 white women strikers picket the factory every morning from 3am.

18 May 1989: Start of the 7 week long Hextex strike (one of the longest strikes ever in our industry) over a service bonus to workers.

18 May 1991: Over 1000 workers and their families take part in a “Big Walk” in support of the union’s Workers Charter demands.

19 May 1997: National launch of the Sactwu Education Trust’s Scholarship Fund in Johannesburg. It opens access to tertiary education for students from historically disadvantaged communities. The new scholarship program is the first of its kind to be promoted and financially supported by trade unions.

22 May 1980: 6000 Frame workers strike over wages and recognition of their union (NUTW).

May 1990: 3 day strike of Eastern Cape Clothing workers

10 May 2000: More than 4 million workers throughout the country stay away from work. The action was the third leg in Cosatu's campaign to protest against job losses and fight for new policies to create jobs.

14 May 2002: Ebrahim Patel, Sactwu's General Secretary signs the Founding Agreement, Technical Agreement and Constitution of the first-ever National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Industry. The scope of this important Bargaining Council will cover clothing workers throughout the country.

23 May 2002: Historic registration of the National Clothing Bargaining Council. The National Clothing Bargaining Council provides the industry with a vehicle through which to address the new social and commercial challenges of the industry and regulates the wages of over 120 000 clothing workers.

1 May 2003: 51Workers die tragically when bus plunges into a dam en-route to the Phuthadijaba May Day Rally.

Sactwu donates R50 000 towards the families of the deceased.

13 May 2003: The newly registered National Clothing Bargaining Council holds its first-ever AGM in Cape Town.

13 May 2003: A Sactwu delegation led by the General Secretary Ebrahim Patel, meets with the Director General of the Department of Labour, Rams Ramashia on the process of gazetting Bargaining Council Agreements.

15 May 2003: Auntie Mary Williams, Cosatu’s longest serving shop steward passes away. Auntie Mary was first elected as a Sactwu shop steward in 1964. Her last job was at Baywear Clothing in Port Elizabeth.




We remember:

2 June 1997: Thousands of workers nationally took to the streets in a legally protected protest action in support of demands to change the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

3 June 1997: 110 Botshabelo workers embark on a 10 week long strike for better working conditions and wages.

16 June 1976: Start of the Soweto uprising against bantu education and apartheid.

14-16 June 1991:Third Sactwu National Congress is held in Cape Town.

18 June 1992: More than 50 000 clothing workers in Natal and the Cape march during working hours in support of their wage demands.

18-19 June 1993: Sactwu hosts a conference looking at Worker rights in a future democratic South Africa. Prominent politicians, lawyers and trade unionists attend this historic meeting.

22 June 1980: Rex Trueform workers go on strike for higher wages.

27 June 1983: Natal Thread strike – first ever legal strike in South Africa since the Wiehahn reforms, by 300 NUTW workers.

June 2000: Sactwu run historic regional winter schools for matriculants. The winter school was for the children and family of our members. The winter school forms part of our Social and Welfare Programme.

23 June 2003: Sactwu’s annual National Winter School Programme for matriculants starts. The Winter Schools are only for the children of Sactwu members. Approximately 680 learners from all over the country participate in the Winter School Programme.

25 June 2003 : Sactwu and textile employers sign constitution for first-ever National Textile Bargaining Council.




We remember:

6 July 1989: 260 Textiles workers at Finitex strike against the company’s use of breathalyser tests, and the involvement of the police in petty theft cases.

11 July 1990: 10 000 Frame cottonworkers start a three week long legal strike over wages, which ends in a victory for the union.

16-18 July 1993: Sactwu’s 4th National Congress – Durban. A new feature of the Congress is and “awards evening” where recognition is given for outstanding service in the interests of workers.

18 July 1980: 26 000 Cape Workers form a massive “human chain” to show their support for the workers charter demands.

24 July 1996: Start of the historic seven day strike by more than 80 000 Sactwu clothing workers nationally, signalling a new millitancy by their refusal to accept poverty increases.

29 July 1974: East London Frame workers strike.

July 1931: 2 300 white clothing workers in Johannesburg and Germiston strike for higher wages.

July 1974: Smith and Nephew Textile company signs a recognition agreement with NUTW – the first such agreement ever in South Africa between a trade union and employer.

July 1981: The industrial court reinstates dismissed workers at Stag Packing Textile company – the first ever reinstated decision of the court.

July 1999: Thousands of Sactwu members demonstrate throughout the country to focus public attention on the continued job losses in the fashion industry.

3-14 July 2000:Sactwu modernises the world of work for union shop stewards, through computer training. It is the first time in the history of the South African labour movement that a trade union has a training programme of this nature. More than 250 shop stewards nationally received this training. It is an ongoing process.

8 July 2000: Sactwu General Secretary, Ebrahim Patel, and Pentech vice-chancellor, Professor Brian Figaji, sign historic co-operation agreement, in the Western Cape. It states that the union and the technicon will work together to develop students and shop stewards in technology and media projects with specific emphasis on our jobs campaign.

21 July 2000: Start of a 12 day long strike by more than 1 000 Seton leather workers. The strike related to workers working rotational shifts and a demand to be paid for 42 hours per week. The strike ended in a historic victory.

1-31 July 2002: Sactwu's second leg of its annual national recruitment campaign commence.

July 2002: Sactwu's president Amon Ntuli steps down after 12 years’ service as the union's president. Amon was also the longest serving president of a Cosatu affiliate. He continues to serve the union on various other structures.

24 July 2002: Launch of the newly established National Clothing Bargaining Council in the Western Cape.

2-22 July 2003: Sesli strike for higher wages and trade union rights.




We remember:

1 August 1991: Start of first course at Sactwu-initiated Workers College with 18 students.

3-4 August 1992: 160 000 Sactwu members support general strike in support of peace and democracy. In all 3 million workers supported this action – the biggest strike action in South Africa.

3 August 1974: Zwelitsha – 3500 workers at Good Hope Textiles (Da Gama) go on strike over wages.

4 August 1982: Veldspun Textile company – 1000 workers strike against retrenchments.

7-9 August 1997: 5th Sactwu National Congress was held in Kwazulu Natal.

11 August 1954: Durban – 1500 workers strike at Consolidated Fine Spinning & Weaving (Frame)

18-21 August 1997: Thousands of Sactwu members nationally support Cosatu’s rolling strike action campaign for fair employment standards.

19 August 1987: Hundreds of workers at SBH Cotton Mills strike over a company rule which require them to ask permission before going to the toilet. The rule was subsequently changed.

28 August 1990: Natal Human Chain Day: 23 800 workers link hands in support of the Workers Charter campaign. With the Cape (July) and Transvaal (October) human chains, over 60 000 Sactwu members took part in the chains.

28 August 1991: Textile employers meet with Sactwu on the union’s demand for a national council

August 1992: Selective strikes in the Clothing industry in Natal.

9 August 1999: Sactwu launches its HIV/AIDS awareness campaign at the William Clarke Children's Home in Durban. The centre is home for about 200 orphans whose parents died of AIDS

August 1999: Thousands of Sactwu members nationally vote in secret ballot in favour of the closed shop and the union. The ballot was supervised by the IEC.

10 August 2000: Sactwu launches its HIV/AIDS shop steward education programme in Durban. 122 shop stewards attended the launch.

29 August 2000: Historic Clothing and Textile Sector Summit takes place in Durban. Senior members of business, labour and government attended the summit. The summit was called to discuss new policies and growth strategies for the industry.

29-30 August 2001: Cosatu anti-privatisation general strike takes place.

2 August 2002: Special School's Launch – Durban

12 August 2002: Sactwu officially launches its National HIV/AIDS Project in Durban.

26 August 2002: Sactwu opens its Voluntary, Testing and Counselling Centre's in all regions. The Voluntary, Testing and Counselling Centre's forms part of our National HIV/AIDS Project.

6 August 2003: Sactwu files Section 77 LRA notice with the National Economic Development & Labour Council (NEDLAC). The notice says that Sactwu intends to hold protest action against the retail sector, their banks and other financial suppliers, to force increased local sourcing.





We remember:

4 September 1991: National Sactwu Human Chain

4 September 1932: General Clothing strike in Transvaal.

5 September 1990: 1000 Da Gama workers march through East London, to force their company to recognise SACTWU.

10-12 September 1993: Connie September, Sactwu treasurer, is elected as the first woman vice-president of Cosatu.

16-17 September 1989: SACTWU is born through the merger of ACTWUSA and GAWU.

18 September 1976: Da Gama Textiles recognises SACTWU after a four-year battle.

19 September 1992: 300 Sactwu members occupy Woolworths, a clothing shop in Cape Town, in solidarity with workers dismissed by Woolworths supplier factories for taking part in a union march.

29 September 1976: 3000 workers at Da Gama’s King Williamstown plant go on strike.

September 1973: The National Union of Textile Workers is born at a meeting in Pinetown.

September 1975: Workers at the Carpet Manufacturing Co. in Jacobs go on strike over the dismissal of a shop steward.

8 September 1999: Over 100 000 Sactwu members nationally participate in protest action in defense of jobs. In Cape Town, more than 30 000 workers march in the biggest ever union march on parliament.

16-18 September 1999: SACTWU's 7th National Congress in Cape Town – celebrating its 10th anniversary. The theme of the congress was "Ten years in defense of worker rights and advancement."

18-21 September 2000: Cosatu 7th National Congress rejected new proposed labour amendments, adopted a resolution to embark on rolling mass action in support of the resolution. A highlight of the Congress was the first ever Cosatu awards evening. Sactwu president, Amon Ntuli and Auntie Mary Williams, won the awards for longest serving president and shop steward within the federation.

September 2000: Sactwu's historic bilateral relationship with the NUTGTW of Nigeria is strengthened by a 3 month organiser exchange programme between the 2 unions.

7 September 2002: Negotiations for the establishment of a National Bargaining Council for the Textile Industry commence.

16-18 September 2002: Sactwu celebrates its 13th Anniversary.

16-18 September 2003: Cosatu holds its 8th National Congress in Midrand. The theme of the congress is “Consolidating working class power for quality jobs towards 2015”. Monica Ishmael, a Sactwu shop steward, receives an award for the longest serving Cosatu shop steward.




We remember:

1 October 1990: Da Vinci Clothing workers in Natal go on strike, sparking off an industry-wide strike of 15 000 workers, over wage increases.

15 October 1990: 8 000 workers and an aeroplane is part of the Transvaal human chain in support of the workers charter demands.

15 October 1991: The first resource centre in Sactwu is officially launched in Cape Town, providing books and videos for loan to shop stewards.

25-27 October 1989: 1400 Leather workers at Futura (Bata Shoes) shoe company in Pinetown went on strike. They demanded recognition of their trade union, SACTWU.

27 October 1975: Natal Cotton and Woollen Mills (Frame) workers strike for 2 weeks, and 200 policemen arrive to break the strike.

26-29 October 1992: Meeting of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) in Portugal.

24 October 2000: 35 workers from Castellano Beltrame in East London are dismissed for an illegal strike in protest against unfair production targets.

1 October 2001: Launch of a month-long recruitment campaign that signs up 5000 new members for Sactwu.

16-17 October 2001: Parliamentary hearings on amendments to the LRA and BCEA.

July/October2002: Team Puma, a textile factory in the Western Cape legally strike over wages and the unilateral introduction of a new shift system. The strike lasted 16 weeks and is the longest and bitterest strike in the history of Sactwu.

1-31 October 2002: Sactwu's 3rd and final leg of its annual national recruitment offensive.

1 October 2002: Sactwu commences its first-ever-national closed shop ballot in the textile industry.

31 October 2002: Sactwu hosts first-ever Fashion Festival in Cape Town. The Fashion Festival is an initiative of the union and supported by Proudly South Africa and the Western Cape Provincial Government.





We remember:

4-5 November 1991: General Strike by 3 million workers against Vat and for a National Economic Forum.

7-8 November 1987: ACTWUSA formed through a merger of the National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW), Textile Workers Industrial Union (TWIU) and National Union of Garment Workers (NUGW), ending the long history of separate organisation by textile and garment workers.

8-13 November 1993:Sactwu hosts first ever historic meeting of the ITGLWF in Cape Town.

17-18 November 1990: COSATU Workers Charter Conference endorses the demand for basic worker rights to organise, to strike and to independent trade unionism, to be included in South Africa’s new constitution.

21 November 1989: Start of the Cape Cotton “grasshopper strikes”

19-23 November 1993: After a 4-day strike, monthly staff at Frame – all members of Sactwu – win a 9,5% increase after the company initially proposed a wage freeze.

28 November 1991: Union delegates sit on an industry committee with manufacturers, cotton farmers and clothing retailers, to discuss the future of the clothing and textile industry.

November 1973: Smith and Nephew Textile workers strike

November 1976: John Copelyn, SACTWU’s General Secretary, is banned together with a number of other trade unionists.

16 November 2001: Parliament votes to approve changes to the LRA and BCEA, giving workers the right to strike on retrenchments.




We Remember:

1 December 1985:
Birth of COSATU.

1 December 1992: Sactwu meets with Fawu and Ppwawu at Cosatu Head Office to discuss the organising of farm workers.

4 December 1989: 550 Cotton textiles workers march to the industrial court to show support for a dismissed worker leader.

5-6 December 1987: GAWU formed through a merger of the Garment Workers’ Union (Western Cape) and the Garment Workers’ Industrial Union (Natal) beginning of new chapter of militant worker struggles in the garment sector of the Cape and Natal.

8 December 1992: The union meets employers to negotiate changes to the new tariff duties which government introduced.

15 December 1993: Tariff duties discussed with government, employers and the union for the clothing and textile industries are submitted to GATT and are accepted, bringing to a close a long process of negotiations

1 December 2001: COSATU celebrates its 16th anniversary.

10 December 2001: Operation ‘Clean-up’ is launched in Newcastle (KZN), to put an end to sweatshop conditions in factories in the area.

1-7 December 2003: Sactwu annual Fashion Festival is held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. A Fashion Expo is introduced for the first time.

7 December 2003 : Sactwu launches first ever Fashion Film Festival, at Labia Theatre, Cape Town.