Friday, October 9, 2009

In Times Gone By, Trade Unions 1903


The election of William Ralph Poynton in 1903 as President of the Association, proved to be a significant event for the building industry in South Africa. The vision and determination of this man were to have far-reaching effects.

After completing his education at Durban High School, he joined his father Thomas Poynton, in the family business of Builders Merchants and Contractors. William, himself was a member of many clubs and institutions and became exceedingly active in civic affairs. He was vehemently anti-Trade Union and frequently stated that he would not allow anybody to tell him what hours his men should work and what wages he should pay.

On this particular issue, he was at times somewhat of an embarrassment to the Association. There is a record of a meeting with representatives of the Trade Unions at which James Reid, as a result of remarks Poynton had made at a previous gathering, had to use all his tact, to restore the good relations which had been seriously disrupted.

His strong anti-trade union stance did not hinder him from serving as a member of the Town Council on nine occasions, and occupying the position of Deputy Mayor in 1901. He also played an integral part in establishing National Federation of Building Trade Employers (NFBTE) and also served as its first President.

Ernest Roper
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