The aim of The Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU) was to be a national umbrella organisation that could coordinate the movements of Black trade unions. The Federation came into being after the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and Federation of Free African Trade Unions (FFATU) disintegrated in the 1960s. The organisation had twelve partners, and represented 45 000 workers.
The organisation aimed to ensure that its partners were democratic, and that leaders were elected from the working class. This approach encouraged the development of a properly organised, democratic trade union movement in South Africa.
FOSATU resisted affiliation with political parties, unlike SACTU, who joined forces with the African National Congress (ANC), and FFATU, who aligned themselves with the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). This affiliation has been construed as a deliberate attempt to ignore political and community issues, and has resulted in FOSATU being described as concerned with only "bread and butter" issues.