In 1919, the members of the Durban Association were imbued with the spirit of progress and of innovation. During that year, a 44 hour week was introduced. The 44 hour week began and, with it, wages were advanced by 3d. an hour; on 1 October, increases varying from 1d. to 4d. an hour were granted to establish a flat rate of 3/- an hour to all artisans. The men were not satisfied with the amount of the flat rate and, after a strike which lasted for twelve days, this was increased to 3/3d.
The formation of the Durban Building Trades Joint Board on 7 January 1919 was responsible for a large increase in the membership of the Association which, at the end of that year stood at 85.
More innovations followed during 1920; a holiday scheme was introduced and the employers formed a Wage Board on a national basis. A holiday scheme did not prove to be the success which had been anticipated and was discontinued after a period of only one year. With the introduction of the holiday scheme the flat rate of wages was increased to 3/10½d an hour.
Following decisions of the National Wages Board, reductions in wages totaling 9½d. an hour were made during the latter part of 1921 and in 1922; the last of these reductions was resisted by the Trade Unions and the failure of negotiations resulted in a strike. This strike continued for eleven days after which the men in Durban resumed work at the reduced rate of 3/1½d. an hour on the understanding that no further reductions would be made before April 1923, that any such reduction would not exceed 2d. an hour and that if a reduction were necessary, three months notice would be given. This settlement, although satisfactory to the members of the Association, did not meet with the approval of the National Wages Board and the Association's Annual Report for the year 1922 stated"
"The strike having been settled without reference to the Wages Board that body took up a very determined attitude and, at a full meeting of the Board held in Durban, it was resolved that the Durban Association's agreement with the men be cancelled and, failing this, the Federation Executive be recommended to suspend the Association from membership."
By the unanimous vote of a General Meeting, the Association refused to cancel the Agreement and, on the matter coming before the Federation, the latter decided that a fine of £50 be imposed on the Association and, failing payment, the recommendation of the Wages Board be given effect to.
Having acted in the best interests of the industry in Durban it was felt that the Federation's decision was unwarranted and a blot on the integrity of the Association. It was resolved to refuse to submit to the penalty and to appeal to the next Congress. The decision was forwarded to the Federation. The Constitution of the Federation made no provision for such an appeal, it was not quite clear what the relationship of the Association with the Federation was.
The matter was considered at the next Congress when the Association led by Charles Carr put forward the opinions of the Association. After much discussion it was finally agreed that the matter would be regarded as closed if the Durban Association apologised to the Federation and the National Wages Board. The Durban delegates withdrew to consider their position in relation to their instructions from their general membership and, on their return, tendered the apology as requested. Thus the Association report for the following year was able to record:
"A satisfactory settlement was arrived at in connection with the unfortunate position that had been created in connection with the Wages Board."
This, however, was not to be the last time that the Association ended up on the wrong side of the National Federation and history was again to be repeated. Membership continued to rise and, with it, the Association's funds increased; by the end of 1923 there were 132 members and the assets were £839. It was at this time that the thoughts of the Executive Committee turned to the possibility of owning a building and it was resolved that "every effort should be made to increase the funds in the near future with a view to the Association eventually being in a position to acquire a building."
In 1924, negotiations with the Trade Unions resulted in an Apprenticeship Committee being established with F.J. Ing, Natal Institute of Architects, as its first Chairman and a Mr. Wainwright of the Department of Industries as Secretary.
At the Annual General Meeting in 1924, it was considered necessary to revise the rules of the Association and among the proposals put forward were the introduction of an entrance fee and provision for Vice-Presidents.
As a direct result of the serious labour disturbances which had occurred on the Gold Mines on the Witwatersrand in 1922, the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924 was enacted as an indication of the strong feeling which existed that some better means than the strike weapon should be created as a method of setting disputes.
The Durban Association in terms of this Act was officially registered as the employers organisation for the Magisterial Division of Durban and a National Industrial Council for the Building Industry was formed. A committee of the National Industrial Council was established in Durban with four representatives each from the employers and the employees.
The National Council was not popular with the members who took advantage of a ruling by the Transvaal Supreme Court that the national agreement was invalid and put a resolution to the Federation regarding the continuation of the Council. The Federation resolved that no action be taken and that the matter be referred to Congress where a vote could be taken. The result of the Congress discussion is summed up in the Association's annual report for 1928:
"In spite of the efforts of your delegates at the last Congress, the National Industrial Council is still with us but does not appear to have become any more popular with the membership."
The Durban Apprenticeship Committee continued to function satisfactorily and, in 1929, F.J. Ing resigned from the position of Chairman and was replaced by Joe Capstick, who had been President of the Association during 1925/26. He held this position with great distinction for many years and the numerous legends which sprang up around him, combined with his personal charm, endeared him to his peers. Always immaculately dressed, he was conscious of the dignity of his Committee.
With a view to stopping the gradual decrease in membership it was decided at a general meeting that members elected during 1930 would be admitted without payment of entrance fee and at a subscription of three guineas for the first year. This measure achieved initial success but, by 1933, the effects of the world wide depression was felt and membership was down to 86, the lowest figure since 1901.