“The fate of 22000 jobs in the clothing and textile industries will be decided today at a meeting between manufacturers and the National Bargaining Council (NBC) for the clothing manufacturing and garment knitting industry.

NBC national compliance officer Leon Deetlefs says the meeting will decide whether the bargaining council proceeds with legal action against the 385 clothing factories nationally that have been found to not comply with minimum wage standards, or whether a new wage model will be determined for the industry”.

These are extracts from an article by Edward West A big day for wages in the clothing industry appearing in Business Day today.

30 day moratorium

“The meeting follows a 30-day moratorium on factory closures, granted after about 120 firms in the Newcastle area shut their doors in solidarity when the NBC tried to close two factories in the area.

During the moratorium, discussions have taken place among the departments of labour and trade and industry, various provincial governments, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and employer representatives , with the aim of finding solutions”.

Writs issued against 88 factories

“The 88 clothing and knitting factories in Newcastle that already have writs issued against them for not complying with the bargaining council’s rules have to present their case today to the NBC”.

Worst Employer Award – a broken brick

“The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) this week branded clothing companies affiliated with the Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce (NCCC) as the worst employers.   The Worst Employer Award, a broken brick, was announced at the union’s congress.

Chamber spokesman Alex Liu jokes that he will fetch the brick because he does not want it thrown at any of the factories, such as happened during the strike last year”.

Competition with low wages and need for ‘revolution’

Mr Liu says today’s meeting may decide the “survival of the industry” and, in this respect, the chamber would not tolerate any violation of basic conditions of employment among its members.

He says local clothing manufacturers in Newcastle are also struggling to compete with the low wages being paid by clothing manufacturers in Swaziland and Lesotho.   Here, even fully NBC-compliant firms are being threatened.

“If we want to keep our clothing industry, we need a kind of a revolution,” Mr Liu says.