© Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal 2017

The Association's Executive Committee continued to take its duties conscientiously and a few items taken from its agendas during this period show the wide range of matters which received consideration. These items included Workmens' Compensation, Sub-Contractors' conditions of contract; National Health Insurance; the Industrial Agreement; the Factories Act; Owner Builders; system of payment for municipal services; the National Federation Constitution; licensing of Builders; scaffolding by-laws; Industrial Conciliation Bill; position of reinforced concrete engineers and Trade Union working cards.

The thirty-second annual Congress of the National Federation was held in Durban in 1937 and, as the host Association's annual report for that year stated, "the general opinion of the visitors was that it had been the best organised Congress yet held." A pleasing feature of this Congress was the appearance of the Association's three life members. Thomas Midgley, Oliver Lea and H.O. Tunmer. This must have been one of the last occasions on which Thomas Midgley, who was President of the Association in 1908, attended a meeting as he died in the following year. Oliver Lea had also been a Mayor of Durban.

The Industry in Durban was very active during the first part of 1939 but the unsettled position which resulted from the outbreak of the second World War resulted in the postponement of a certain amount of building work. However, the Government and the Municipality decided to continue with their planned building programmes and the year closed on an optimistic note. The Association was prospering, membership was at a record high of 197.

The Association organised to co-operate fully in the country's war effort. All members who joined the Forces were placed on the list of honorary members and generous contributions were given from Association funds to the various war appeals. Conditions of employment were stabilised by an agreement which was effective until January 1942.

In 1941 building in South Africa was declared a controlled Industry and came under the direction of the Controller of Industrial Manpower. Restrictions on building work of over £2,000 in value, subsequently reduced to £250.00, were put into force. Working hours on defence work were extended to 51½ a week, the time worked in excess of the ordinary working hours to be paid at overtime rates. Wages of artisans were frozen at the rate applicable during September 1941 and employers were obliged to pay their lower grade employees, including apprentices, a cost of living allowance.

There was one paragraph which was mentioned from the 1944 annual report.

"The various conditions of employment in operation during the year made matters difficult and confusing. First the Freestone Award expired in January and it was decided to carry on with the same conditions pending other legalized conditions. From 20 March, under the Walker Award, alterations took place in the basic rates and cost of living allowances and Holiday and Stabilisation Funds were set up. From the 6 June when the Walker Award was set aside, the two Funds ceased to function and it was decided to continue on the same rates of wages and cost of living allowances and for the employers to hold the 2½d. an hour holiday provision. From 1 September, a new scale of cost of living allowances came into operation increasing the allowances payable to Apprentices, General Workers and certain other employees. The new Award became operative on 27 November except for the holiday provisions which start from 1 January. The award provides for the setting up of Stabilisation and Holiday Funds to be controlled by a Management Board of seven members, a Chairman appointed by the Secretary for Labour and three representatives of employers and employees."

At the time the thoughts of the Association turned towards the question of appointing a director who could deal with the mass of legislation affecting the Building Industry ad, at the same time, prepare the Association to meet the problems of the future when the War ended."

When the War came to an end it was recorded in a report of the Association in the following terms:

"No words can describe the joy and relief which the victory brought us and it is hoped that the great lesson of the War, which has shown that everything possible can be gained by mutual co-operation and unity, will not be lost in peace."

As indicated, members who saw War service on a voluntary basis were granted honorary membership while on active service. Some of those who had volunteered for service as teenagers ended the War as adults. The Government of the day had a responsibility of ensuring that those persons were again integrated and absorbed in society and equipped with skills

This was done in terms of the Training of Artisans Act popularly known as the COTT scheme. Many returning young servicemen received intensive building industry skills training and were absorbed in the local industry during this period. Some so trained well to become well known entrepreneurs in the industry subsequently such as Bob Stevenson who became President of the Association and BIFSA and Charles van Eck who became a prominent civil leader serving as Mayor of Pinetown and Chairman of the first KwaZulu Natal Provincial Housing and a member of the National Housing Boards.