UNIVERSITY OF THE WESTERN CAPE
SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND FINANCE
LIZ ABRAHAMS ANALYSIS
MS PEARL PUGIN
13 FEBRUARY 2013
Outline the most significant events in the life of Liz Abrahams, as she describes in her life story, Married to the Struggle, in the context of South Africa’s employment relations history.
Ms Liz Joseph who got married and was known as Mrs Liz Abrahams was born in the year of 1925 near a place known as Hermitage. At a very tender and young age of 14 years she started working as a seasonal worker and during those days, there was nothing alarming about a young person doing the labour and (Abrahams, 2005) states that a person could start working at the age of ten. She worked because her family situation forced her to do so, due to the fact that her father, who has been a bread winner for a long time was ill now and could no longer work, and her mother was the only one supporting her and the siblings, so she wanted to help her family and also to ensure that her other siblings are put through to school. During this time, seasonal workers only worked when there was fruit available and they remained unemployed during the time there was no fruits and therefore that meant there was nothing for them to do in the factories (off-season). She had a natural, intrusive and questioning spirit and always wanted to help others and know what is going on. Therefore at a very young age she was inquisitive about the happenings around her and this was noticed by Bryma Moerat’s father when he said “She’s going to travel a lot, and she’s going to travel far.” Abrahams E (2005:2).
Liz always made sacrifices for others and that included sacrificing her life so that workers could be able to have better working conditions in South African factories, this meant that she would travel outside Paarl, where she resided, in order for her to meet workers and be an intermediary for them at times. Poverty and exploitation were always a factor and this put a strain on Liz, but she did not give up in ensuring that the conditions ought to be improved, and at times they were. Contracts were not put in place and this meant that the “Bosses” or rather the employers exploited the people/employees and paid them whatever rate that suited them because there was nothing tying them down to an agreement. The people back in the days of Liz, did not have all of this wonderful benefits that we have now i.e lunch hours or breaks, there was no maternity benefits (mothers had to worry about whether they still have their jobs after they have been away to give birth) because there were no maternity benefits and management did not treat the people well.
In the beginning Liz showed littler or rather no interest whatsoever in the unions, but when she met Ray Alexander there was definitely a change in her life and attitude towards unions. In 1941 it is said that the Food and Canning Workers’ Union had begun and this was during the time that Liz showed no interest and the union represented all the races in South Africa. As time went on, Liz surely started to show an interest and at the age of 21 years, she became a subs steward and this entailed that she takes part in negotiations for workers and during those days they would meet at the Berg River at night in a car sometimes, in order for them to have meetings amongst themselves.
In 1941 there were still some people who were not properly informed about unions and that made them ignorant, and in the book Liz also states that there was a time where people refused to meet and discuss work issues that were negatively affecting them and how things could be combated. This was the time that other organisation were launched i.e. FEDSAW (Federation of South African women). Liz...
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