Women working for their freedom : FCWU and AFCWU and the women question

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

This thesis has two parallel processes of investigation. Firstly, it is an investigation of the extent to which a trade union can successfully participate in the struggle for working women's rights at work and concerning motherhood and childcare, and in the struggle for the realisation of the political aspirations of women workers within a capitalist society. Secondly, the thesis examines the ideological position of the Food and Canning Workers Union in order to refine the theoretical understanding of the woman question in South Africa. Research methods have relied on use of archival documents, both published and unpublished; oral history; secondary sources on the union being studied and on South African society; as well as classical and contemporary texts on the theory of women's oppression and its interconnection with exploitation. The research has been hindered by the historical repression meted out by the South African state, which has forced people into exile, banned written sources, and removed archival material from South Africa. The recent repression has severely hampered the extent of interviewing and discussion, as well as made the process of research and writing of the thesis a difficult undertaking. The union's organising strategy is examined in terms of the following three issues: 1. Because of their dual responsibilities as worker and mother, and because of their relatively unorganised position, women workers are ultra-exploited. What role can a union play in fighting against the various aspects of this? The specific aspects of ultra-exploitation found in the food and canning industry are temporary employment and periodic unemployment; child labour; piece-work; excessive overtime. 2. The inclusion of women into wage labour faces them with a task of combining motherhood and wage labour. How can a union win demands to assist these women workers with this task? The two ways in which the union confronted this question were maternity rights and childcare facilities. 3. The assault on working class in terms of the right to work, the right to live where one chooses, the right to family life, and the right to a decent standard of living was a burden to working class women in particular.

Bibliography: leaves 192-203.