Trade unionists

tu43. Don’t Emigrate to South Africa

Britain was the biggest source of white immigrants to South Africa and Rhodesia throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In 1969 TUC annual congress passed a resolution urging affiliated unions to discourage their members from emigrating there. The AAM asked unions to follow up the resolution by circulating this leaflet or producing similar material themselves.

pic7301. ‘We demand recognition of African trade unions’

British trade unionists picketed South Africa House calling for the recognition of African trade unions on 15 February 1973. In 1973 a work stoppage at British company Metal Box’s South African subsidiary in Durban sparked a wave of strikes by thousands of African workers. The AAM asked British trade unions to show their solidarity.

pic7302. Solidarity with South African strikers

John Gaetsewe of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) outside South Africa House on 15 February 1973. With him are T P Callinan from the shopworkers union USDAW and Eddie Marsden from the construction workers union. Embassy officials rejected a letter signed by the general secretaries of 12 British unions condemning apartheid.

pic7314. AAM trade union conference, 1973

Starting in 1969, the AAM held an annual conference to build support among British trade unionists. The conference held in March 1973 stressed the importance of building a rank and file solidarity movement. In the photograph (left to right): James Phillips and Archie Sibeko (Zola Zembe) of SACTU, Robert Skillicorn from the public sector workers union NUPE, Christine Page from the shopworkers union USDAW and Colin Clark from NUPE.

tu10. TUC delegation to South Africa

In 1973 the TUC sent a delegation to South Africa. The report produced by the delegation called on the subsidiaries of British companies to recognise African trade unions. The AAM opposed the recommendation on the grounds that it condoned British investment in apartheid. This leaflet stressed that the TUC and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) already had policy calling for the withdrawal of all British capital from South Africa.

tu11. ‘Solidarity with black South African workers’

In 1973 thousands of African workers went on strike in Durban, heralding a new worker militancy and the growth of independent trade unions in South Africa in the 1970s. This AAM leaflet expressed solidarity with the striking workers and accused British companies of profiting from starvation wages.

tu04. ‘Is This Justice?’

This leaflet was a direct appeal to British workers from the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). It asked them not to emigrate to South Africa and to press for disinvestment from British firms that operated there. From the early 1970s SACTU had an office and representative, John Gaetsewe, in Britain. In 1976 it set up a Liaison Committee to foster links with British trade unions. It worked closely with the AAM’s Trade Union Committee.

tu12. Apartheid and the British Worker

The AAM produced the first edition of this handbook describing the working conditions of black workers under apartheid in the early 1970s. It set out the case for pressuring British companies to withdraw from South Africa and was widely distributed among British trade unionists.