Erroll Drummond 1975


Erroll Prain Drummond was born in Durban, Natal, on 27 June 1915 of Scottish immigrant parents. He was educated at Mansfield Road Boys' School and the Durban High School where he matriculated with a first-class pass.

Subsequently he was awarded the Sir John Robinson Scholarship which enabled him to further his studies at Natal University where he graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Economics in Industrial Administration.

For a brief period he was employed in the City Treasurer's Department, Durban, while he further improved his qualifications by obtaining the Diploma of the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants in whose final examination he achieved first place in South Africa.

Thereafter he proceeded to the Reef and spent several formative years in various sections of Local Government. So specialised and diversified did his knowledge of municipal affairs become, that he was often called upon to lecture in accountancy, municipal law and statistics.

The year 1942 saw the actual starting point in the career of a man who was eventually to become a key figure in labour law and industrial relations in this country, because in that year Errol Drummond became Secretary to the Industrial Council for the Iron and Steel Manufacturing Industry (Transvaal).

It was his initiative and planning ability which led to the formation of the National Industrial Council for the Iron, Steel, Engineering and Metallurgical Industry in South Africa. In 1944 he made the important decision to join the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA) as General Secretary. His business acumen and leadership potential soon gave rise to his appointment as Director of SEIFSA, the position he holds today.

Under his dynamic leadership SEIFSA grew into one of the largest employer federations in the Republic of South Africa embracing 60 independent employer associations and involving a labour force of approximately 430 000 workers.

Under Mr Drummond's direction, the functions of SEIFSA expanded from those of purely an employer association to those of a vast co­ordinating body rendering a comprehensive list of services not only to the steel and engineering industries but also the country in general as will be apparent from the following summary of its activities.

In addition to the administrative division, labour division and funds administration division, SEIFSA has a technical division, educational and training division and economics division. In-depth studies and research on industrial and economic problems embrace air pollution, industrial effluents, standards, metrication, taxation, transportation and exports, especially export promotion and export planning.

The various committees of SEIFSA not only serve the interests of the constituent associations but also co-operate with Government bodies and advisory bodies such as the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, the Council of Colleges of Advanced Technical Education and many more. In addition, they submit recommendations to various Government bodies, including the Export Advisory Council of South Africa.

These achievements of SEIFSA cannot be divorced from the man, Errol Drummond, who has been mainly responsible for its structurization and who has been the dynamic force behind its activities for more than 30 years.  In addition to attending over 400 executive meetings per year and devoting many hours to discussions on SEIFSA affairs, he still finds time to sit on numerous boards or governing bodies, thereby making valuable contributions to the labour, economic and educational progress of the country.

As a result of his involvement and leading role in the huge organisation that is SEIFSA, it can be said that Errol Drummond is an authority on industrial relations and labour law in South Africa. He serves on numerous Government bodies, including the State Tender Board, the Unemployment Insurance Board, the National Apprenticeship Committee for the Metal Industries, the Manpower Board, the Committee of the Economic Advisory Council on the Utilisation of Manpower and the Council of the National Productivity Institute.

He represented South African employers at International Labour Organisation Conferences in Geneva on six separate occasions from 1952 to 1964.

Under his guidance, SEIFSA gives generous aid to education in general.  Its Technological Fund as an adjunct to the Education and Training plan provides bursaries at South African Universities for Engineering and other degree courses, including management and administration, and for technicians employed in the SEIFSA group of industries.

Currently, 612 bursaries are being maintained and a total amount of almost R1m has been paid out to bursary holders.

Mr Drummond’s interest in education is evident in the aid given by SEIFSA, and also in his personal involvement in education.  He is a member of the Council of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced technical Education, having been President of that body from 1965 to 1967. He is a patron of the Bureau of Market Research at the University of South Africa and a member of that Bureau’s Project Committee. He also served on the University of Port Elizabeth’s Trust since its inception in 1965 and has ever since taken a keen interest in this University’s activities and progress.  

But probably the most important service rendered by this man to his country is the result of his outstanding ability in negotiation. The conflict in labour relations in Great Britain, Western Europe, the USA and other industrialised countries is evidence of the immense power of organised labour.

To negotiate with powerful trade unions makes heavy demands on any employers’ representative. The peace and quiet experienced on the labour front in the steel and engineering industries in South Africa can to a large extent be attributed to Mr Drummond who over the years has proved himself to be a formidable negotiator. This contribution assumes greater significance if one realises that the SEIFSA group of industries provides employment for about one third of the total labour force employed by all the manufacturing industries in the Republic of South Africa.

The University of Port Elizabeth regards it a privilege to honour Mr Drummond by awarding him the degree DOCTOR COMMERCII, HONORIS CAUSA.