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Council of Unions of South Africa

Council of Unions of South Africa

The Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) was a national trade union federation in South Africa.


The federation was founded on 14 September 1980 by the former affiliates of the Black Consultative Committee which did not wish to join the Federation of South African Trade Unions, as they felt it was dominated by white activists. The new federation was more centralised than the former committee, and it was led by general secretary Phiroshaw Camay.[1][2] The federation strongly opposed the apartheid system, and affiliated to both the National Forum Committee and the United Democratic Front.[3]

The council had seven affiliates, and saw initial growth, with 49,014 members by the end of 1981.[1] In 1982, it sought to organise mine workers, and so established the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). All the CUSA affiliates grew, with the NUM's growth being particularly rapid.[4] In contrast to many of its rivals, CUSA did not lay out any specific approach for affiliates to use in negotiating on pay and conditions; for example, some chose to join industrial councils, while others boycotted them. Most chose to register with the Government of South Africa, but some chose not to do so.[3]

The NUM left in 1985, to join the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). In response, CUSA opened negotiations with the Azanian Confederation of Trade Unions (AZACTU). By 1986, CUSA had 12 affiliates with a total of 147,000 members. On 5 October, it merged with the AZACTU, to form the National Council of Trade Unions (NCTU).[5]


UnionAbbreviationFoundedLeftReason not affiliatedMembership (1981)[1]Membership (1986)[4]
Brushes and Cleaners Workers' UnionBCWU19821986Transferred to NCTUN/A1,000
Building, Construction and Allied Workers' UnionBCAWU19751986Transferred to NCTU9,20027,264
Food, Beverage and Allied Workers' UnionFBAWU19791986Transferred to NCTU6,00016,124
Hotel, Liquor and Catering Employees' UnionHLCEU19781984Transferred to ACTUN/AN/A
National Union of MineworkersNUM19821985Transferred to COSATUN/AN/A
National Union of Wine and Spirits WorkersNUWSW19781986Transferred to NCTUN/A5,000
South African Black Municipality and Allied Workers' Union1985DisaffiliatedN/AN/A
South African Chemical Workers' UnionSACWU19731986Transferred to NCTU10,50030,000
South African Laundry, Dry Cleaning and Dye Workers' UnionSALDCDWU19721986Transferred to NCTU2,3974,771
Steel, Engineering and Allied Workers' UnionSEAWU19791986Transferred to NCTU10,73428,927
Textile Workers' Union of the TransvaalTWU19731986Transferred to NCTUN/A1,000
Transport and Allied Workers' UnionTAWU19721986Transferred to NCTU8,18323,327
United African Motor and Allied Workers' UnionUAMAWU19801986Transferred to NCTU2,00010,873
Vukani Black Guards and Allied Workers' UnionVBGAWU19811986Transferred to NCTUN/A514


  1. Miller, Shirley (1982). Trade Unions in South Africa 1970-1980: a directory and statistics. Cape Town: Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit. ISBN 0799204692.
  2. The road to democracy in South Africa (PDF). South African Democracy Education Trust. 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  3. Ncube, Don (1985). Black trade unions in South Africa. Braamfontein: Skotaville. pp. 130–135. ISBN 0947009051.
  4. Kunnie, Julian (2018). Is Apartheid Really Dead? Pan Africanist Working Class Cultural Critical Perspectives. Routledge. ISBN 978-0429979231.
  5. "Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) is formed". History of South Africa Online. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
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