A major change in the South African trade union balance took place with the establishment of a new trade union federation with over 515 000 members. The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) was established on 1 April 1997 by the amalgamation of two federations, namely Federation of South African Labour Unions (FEDSAL) and Federation of Organisations Representing Civil Employees (FORCE).
History was made by creating greater democracy and balance by offering alternative solutions within the South African Labour movement. An agreement was signed during March 1997 that would establish FEDUSA. Its members included technicians, administrative employees, pilots, flight engineers, general assistants, nurses, doctors, teachers and other skilled and semi – skilled employees from both the public and private sector of the economy.
FEDUSA’s establishment is very closely related to the fact that a growing number of employees from all walks of life felt the need for a much stronger, party-politically independent, non racial and stable trade union federation with unions who can advance the interests of employees and of the economy of South Africa in an independent and responsible manner.
At international level FEDUSA continued the good relations that FEDSAL had with various trade union federations in other countries, and is currently affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
Since 1997 FEDUSA has grown from strength to strength, and although various trade unions came and left over the years and most trade unions saw a decline in membership globally, FEDUSA continues to protect workers’ rights and promote workers’ interests actively.
FEDUSA and its affiliated trade unions play a major role in South African labour relations. Although often not as vocal or militant as other unions, FEDUSA unions tend to accomplish more through sophisticated strategic interventions in boardrooms.
Also, because FEDUSA is not crippled by ideological and party-political ties, it can focus on its real mandate, namely workplace matters and issues that affect its members. For this reason FEDUSA focuses its capacity and energy on national and international representation to affect real influence in policy and implementation.