Action in South Africa


Phillip Nkosi began work as a waiter in a Sun International hotel in Johannesburg 24 years ago. For the last 22 years he has also been the Shop Steward representing and negotiating on behalf of his fellow workers. Phillip made the decision to become active in his union because he witnessed too much injustice and decided he couldn't stay quite on the sidelines. He has provided leadership ever since. I spent some time with Phillip and he exemplified all that's good about trade unionism and collectivism.Clearly an intelligent and talented individual he made the decision to stay in the hotel sector so that he could make a contribution to improving the terms and conditions and therefore the lives of workers and their families. He understood that many of his co-workers were reluctant to stand up because they feared the consequences and committed himself to building the union and instilling confidence amogst the workforce and demonstrate that by standing together they could make a difference. His view of the hotel sector is similar to that many of you would agree with. What differentiates him from many others is that he took the leadership responsibility to initiate change. Without people like Phillip we would not have a trade union movement and his experience reminds us all that although it's never easy to create change it cannot happen without the workers wanting it and individuals initiating collective action by providing leadership. Phillip began down the organising road during the apartheid period in South Africa and we can't imagine the self belief and courage that took. So next time you hear anyone moan that organising the union in your workplace can't be done just think about Phillip in Johannesburg. He realises that you can never relax and you have to be constantly vigilant in defending and promoting terms and conditions.