Ebrahim Patel: The SACTWU biography

Union describes career of its former general secretary, now minister of economic development


The Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) welcomes the swearing in of the new cabinet. In particular, we welcome the swearing in of our ex-General Secretary, Ebrahim Patel, as Minister of Economic Development in President Jacob Zuma's cabinet.

Ebrahim Patel was the Overall Convenor for organised labour in South Africa in which capacity he led negotiations on social and economic policy matters at tripartite institutions. He served too as the global spokesperson on Employment and Social Policy for the Workers Group on the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Governing Body.

He has been a member of the South African national delegation on trade policy since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore in 1996 .

Recently, he led the labour engagement with government leaders as part of the preparations for the G20 Summit, when a small global labour team met with Presidents Motlanthe ( South Africa ) and Lula ( Brazil ), Prime Ministers Gordon Brown (UK) and Kevin Rudd ( Australia ) and the heads of the IMF (Dominique Strauss-Kahn) and WTO (Pascal Lamy). Following its deliberations, the Summit agreed to a combination of economic stimuli measures and greater regulation of financial markets.

At the ILO, he led negotiations which resulted in the adoption of the ILO's Global Employment Agenda, which contributed to international efforts to promote decent work, to tackle unemployment and the employment growth challenge.

He also led the negotiations which resulted in the ILO's adoption of the groundbreaking ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation (2008). This Declaration is an attempt to integrate global economic growth with social justice considerations and was adopted by 180 governments, global business and global labour.

Mr Patel has also led the Workers Group at the International Labour Conference of the ILO on discussions that led to the adoption of the Recommendation on the Employment Relationship (2006), the Recommendation on the Promotion of Cooperatives (2001/2002), Conclusions concerning Human Resources Training and Development (2000) and Conclusions on the Employment Relationship (2003).

Domestically, besides his role as Overall Labour Convener at NEDLAC. Mr Patel has also served on the Board of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), on the National Economic Forum (NEF - NEDLAC's predecessor), the Presidential Working Group, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council, the Millennium Labour Council, the Proudly South African Board, the COSATU Central Executive Committee, Council for Higher Education, the Clothing Industry Training Board, the Textile Industry Training Board, Chris Hani Institute, the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Industry, the National Textile Bargaining Council, the Financial & Fiscal Commission and the Judicial Services Commission.

Since the end of apartheid, Mr Patel and his colleagues in South Africa have been involved in negotiating a series of social agreements that cover matters as diverse as labour legislation such as the Labour Relations Act (1995), access for low-income citizens to banking, supply of water to rural areas, HIV codes at the workplace and national positions on trade policy. He has been actively involved in discussions on industrial policy measures for the clothing, textile and footwear industry.

Shortly after the formation of South Africa 's first democratic government in 1994, he was nominated by President Mandela to serve on the country's first Financial and Fiscal Commission and has served on the boards of public bodies regulating higher education, labour arbitration and economic and social policy.

His most recent tri-partite negotiations was the conclusion of the Framework for South Africa's Response to the International Economic Crises, adopted by NEDLAC in February this year, after President Mothlanthe requested the social partners to develop such a response, in December last year.

Mr Patel has been active in the trade union movement for more than two decades. He played an active role in the formation of COSATU. Until his appointment as Minister of Economic Development, he served as the General Secretary of the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (SACTWU's), one of the largest unions in the sector internationally. He started as an organiser in the National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW), one of SACTWU's founding trade unions and which emerged out of the historic 1973 Durban strikes. Before then, while he was a student, he unionised UCT, University of the Western Cape and University of Stellenbosch workers who are now part of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU).

Mr Patel was born in 1962 in Cape Town .

Statement issued by Andre Kriel, SACTWU Deputy General Secretary, May 11 2009

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