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Welcome to SACTWU


The Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) is the largest trade union in the clothing, textile, leather  and footwear industry in South Africa and globally, with just more than 99 000 members as at the end of August 2015.

Sactwu was founded in September 1989, the result of a merger between South Africa’s key garment, textile and leather sector trade unions.

We have a trade union density of just over 85%, in our core sectors. This allows Sactwu to represent its members more effectively.

We negotiate wages and terms of conditions of employment for the vast majority of workers in the clothing, textile, leather and footwear industry.

Our largest region is in the Kwazulu-Natal Province (44% of total membership), followed by Western Cape (30%), Gauteng (14%) and then Eastern Cape (8%).
In addition, we have a Head Off Project in the Free State Province of South Africa, which represents 4% of our total membership.

We negotiate terms and conditions of employment in 3 national bargaining councils (clothing, textiles and leather), in 2 provincial bargaining councils (canvass goods in Gauteng and laundry in KwaZulu-Natal), in 6 company group level negotiations (such as in Service Products/Sheltered Employment) and in just over 80 plant-level wage bargains. The outcomes of our negotiations affect over 100 000 clothing, textile, leather, footwear, distribution and related workers.

We brand ourselves as South Africa’s “Fashion Union”.

We have a lean but effective modern organisational capacity to take up worker problems, with just over 2000 shop stewards spread in 1700 workplaces nationally. They are supported by 36 full-time organisers employed country wide, and 22 other support staff, in our 4 regions and in our Head Office Project respectively. These are supplemented with a 20-strong head office team of senior full-time union officials.
We build worker leadership on the shop floor, with our shop stewards, all of whom are elected every three years at workplace level, by secret ballot by SACTWU members. We employ 4 full-time officials to train shop stewards.

About 95% of all our organisers were previous shop floor leaders (shop stewards), the vast majority mainly in SACTWU. Each organiser is set an annual recruitment target, a target of 15 workplace general meetings per month, and a set time period for processing case referrals (such as dismissal cases).
We have a specialist Membership Growth Organiser in each of our Regions. Their sole job is to recruit new members into our trade union.

We run a minimum of 2 training courses per training week annually, on a wide range of industrial relations-related matters, attended by an average of 20 shop stewards per course.

We play a key role in the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FPMA) Sectoral Education & Training Authority (SETA), the main skills development institution for our industry. We are also represented on the Wholesale & Retail SETA.

We run at least 22 national constitutional meetings in every 36-month cycle, 210 constitutional and co-ordinating meetings at regional level, 1020 branch meetings, 80 regional office bearers’ meetings and 530 branch office bearers’ meetings.
Our highest decision-making constitutional structure, the SACTWU National Congress, convenes once every three years. The last one was held in August 2013, in Durban.

We have a qualified research team that studies economic problems in the industry, and help to develop solutions on issues such as imports, exports, the buy local campaign, and ways to save factories from closing down.
We run big campaigns to save jobs, and have led the call to set up a ‘buy South Africa campaign’, and we enter into agreements with big companies and institutions to support the local industry.



We provide numerous personal benefits for members. These include automatic funeral cover, bursaries, retirement support,  and HIV/AIDS support,  industrial sports program, numeracy and literacy support for pre- and primary school learners, and Winter Schools for matriculants, amongst other. Except for the numeracy and literacy support program, all of these programs are self-administered, internally in our trade union.

Our bursary scheme is the largest of any trade union on the African continent. It pays for the children of our members to complete higher education diplomas and degrees. To date our bursary fund has paid out more than R130 million, since inception in 1975.
In 2014, we have paid a total of R12m in bursaries, to 1020 SACTWU bursars. As at the end of August this year, the amount paid out was R13.74m to 1086 SACTWU bursars.

Our bursars render approximately 50 000 hours of free community service each year.

Our funeral and retirement funds pay out more than R20m per annum, to members and their dependants.

We defend workers against unfair dismissals at the factory level, at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA), in the Bargaining Councils and in the Labour Court. Every year we take up at least 700 cases, most of which is for unfair dismissal, and we spend almost R2m in Labour Court cases annually. Our legal strategy is to mainly focus on “precedent setting” court cases.

We run the African continent’s largest HIV/Aids union support program, with about 70 000 members having undergoing our HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) facility over every 3 year period, since inception in June 2007. As at the beginning of August 2015, we are the leading non-governmental provider of Male Medical Circumcision (MMC) provision in South Africa. For the period January 2015 to end July 2015, for example, we have performed 68 509 circumcisions, through by the SACTWU Worker Health Program.

We have a student wing, and are building a retirees unit, a designers’ unit and a retrenchment unit.

We run a full-time membership recruitment campaign, with a team of dedicated recruiters (mainly ex-shop stewards) and a full time Growth Organiser in each of our 4 regions. We have a dedicated budget of R1m per year, for member recruitment purposes only.
Our immediate previous General Secretary, Ebrahim Patel, was appointed as South Africa’s first ever Minister of Economic Development in May 2009.

We have 19 union offices spread throughout South Africa, with our Head Office services in Cape Town and Durban.
We are the only trade union whose investment wing is listed on the Johannesburg Stock exchange, for purposes of transparency. Our investment company employs 30 000 employees in its various operations, the largest employment of any trade union investment company in our country.

We provide a home for all workers from our industry, uniting people who speak Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, English, Xhosa, Tswana and every other local South African language. We bring together Christians, Muslims, Hindus and every other religion.

Internationally, we are affiliated to the Geneva-based IndustriaALL, the global union for manufacturing workers.

We join together with unions from all other domestic industries to form the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - the powerful voice of South Africa’s workers. COSATU has 2m members as at the end of February 2015, spread over 18 affiliated trade unions. SACTWU is COSATU’s 8th largest trade union.