Welcome to SACTWU

The Southern African Clothing and 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 105 000 members as at the end of August 2017.

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 88%, 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, and associated sectors.
Our scope extends to the whole value chain, from farming to retail distribution.
We have 4 Provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng), prescribed in our constitution. In addition, we have set up project recruitments in Mpumalanga, Free State and Limpopo Provinces.

Our largest Province is in Kwazulu-Natal, followed by Western Cape, then Gauteng and then Eastern Cape.

We negotiate terms and conditions of employment in 3 national bargaining councils (the clothing-, textiles- and leather bargaining councils respectively), 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 85 plant-level wage bargains.

The outcomes of our collective bargaining negotiations affect over 150 000 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 3000 shop stewards spread in over 2000 workplaces nationally. They are supported by full-time organisers employed country wide, and other support staff, in our 4 Provinces and in our Head Office Project respectively. These are supplemented with a 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 directly by SACTWU members. We employ a solid team of full-time education officers to train shop stewards.

About 95% of all our organisers were previous shop floor leaders (shop stewards), the vast majority mainly in SACTWU. In addition to their normal duties, 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 Provinces. Their sole duty is to recruit new members into our trade union.

We run a minimum of 2 training courses per every 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 23 national constitutional meetings in every 36-month cycle, 210 constitutional and co-ordinating meetings at provincial level, 1020 branch meetings, 80 provincial 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 September 2016, in Cape Town.

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 own the African continent’s largest clothing manufacturing production operation.




We provide numerous personal benefits for members. These include automatic funeral cover, bursaries, retirement support,  and HIV/AIDS support,  an 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 and further education diplomas and degrees. To date our bursary fund has paid out more than R500 million, since inception in 1975.

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

Our funeral and retirement funds pay out more than R50m 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 1000 cases, most of which is for unfair dismissal. Our legal strategy is to mainly focus on “precedent setting” court cases.

We run the African continent’s largest HIV/Aids union support 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 Provinces.
We have a dedicated budget of R1m per year, for new 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, and currently still serve in that capacity.

We have 21 union offices spread throughout South Africa, with our Head Office services centred 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 about 35 000 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 IndustriALL, 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.