The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] wishes all working class women, in South Africa, all over the world, in the class-oriented trade union organisations of workers, a militant International Working Women’s Day.

We specifically wish to single out women in our union who continue to occupy the picket line, on the occasion of our public service strike. We salute all the women leaders in our union, the shop-stewards, the organisers, the strike committees, the storm troopers of our public service strike, for their militancy and exemplary role in confronting the employer and fighting to defend the rights of our members.

We greet women all over the world who live in regions, in which imperialism has fostered severe under-development, inequality and patriarchy, as instruments of capitalist rule, exploiting massively, the existing gender, race and class differences, within and amongst the same communities and people.

Everywhere, bosses are responding by limiting the rights of working people, attacking trade unions and collective bargaining, retrenching workers, closing down factories, wiping out pensions and incomes and by negating all of our achievements. They restructure, casualise and privatise and in the process, they worsen problems of unemployment, poverty and inequality and place more of the burden of their own crisis, on working families.

In South Africa and Africa as a whole, we see growth in capitulation of the social sector, growing faith in the privatisation of valuable assets of public sector with reductions in public investment and services. The workforce has faced huge reductions in wages and exploitation has intensified. The employers have no prohibitions to do as they wish. They disregard labour laws and preserve terrible working conditions. We have seen enormous misappropriation of workers savings, pensions and social security benefits. Working women remain a great inspiration to our common struggle in the fight to end patriarchy and capitalist exploitation.

The October revolution of 1917 in Russia enlightened us that it is possible for the right to work, the right to free education and health services to be guaranteed. It is possible to secure the reduction of working hours, to construct places of rest and leisure, to construct facilities for the stimulation of cultural creativity, to build theatres and cinemas, to stimulate artistic, sports and cultural organizations, to establish libraries even in the most remote rural areas.

The trade union movement has a duty to fight relentlessly for the victory of the struggle for socialism, to guarantee pensions, to liberate women from household responsibilities, for their mass introduction in education, into sophisticated production, to promote their literacy so they pursue any career of their choice, so that they are found in charge of the running affairs of the state, responsible for production in factories, with absolute equality with men, in all every field.

We have to fight for these rights now. The right to a 6-months maternity leave, to a minimum wage, to salaries and pensions, for collective bargaining; for dignified employment.

Women workers should lead social struggles against child labour, food security and proper nutrition,

It has been 161 years, since the strike on 8th March 1857 of the female workers in the textile industries of New York. But those managing production on behalf of employers, continue to deny women their right to fair remuneration and promotion; equal pay for equal work and work of equal value. Working women are victimised sexual harassed; they are denied parental rights and childcare facilities and responded to with violence in the workplace.

The trade union movement should place more effort to ensure the equality between women and men decision masking, to shape political, environment, social and cultural development. The trade union movement has a crucial role to play in fighting for justice for women in the workplace, the labour market and society as a whole. The trade unions gained a marginal right to paid paternity leave of 10 paid working days. The struggle for our demand for 6 months of paid maternity leave continues.

The trade union has to develop specific actions for working class women, to promote their organisation, targeting the most marginalised sections including women in remote areas, using ideological training and trade union education. It must be conscientised and schooled in the politics and theory of the working class in order to understand the class content of women’s oppression and wage struggles together with other popular forces to rid society of capitalist exploitation as the basis for all forms or patriarchy.


Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: