Tuesday, 15 September 2009 17:30
The clothing industry came to a standstill today as tens of thousands of members of the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) have commenced a national wage strike in support of their wage demands.
The strike commenced early this morning, when workers started the day with general meetings at their workplaces. By between 09h00 - 09h30 they had clocked out, held brief protest actions in front of their workplaces and then dispursed to go home because the union had called for the strike action to be in the form of a stayaway from work today.
By 12h30 today, the trade union had completed a survey to measure the extent of support for the strike. Nationally, a total of 336 factories jointly employing about 33 000 workers were surveyed. The preliminary outcome indicates close to 90% support for the strike. Extrapolating this result nationally, it means that about 55 000 clothing workers have embarked on national strike action today. This shows a massive rejection of the employers' wage proposals and solid support for the union's demand for a decent wage increase for clothing workers.
In the meantime, employers have issued a lock-out notice late on Sunday evening. The notice comes into effect this evening at 22h00. The purpose of the lockout is to force clothing workers to accept the employers' offer.
Clothing employers are meeting this afternoon to discuss their way forward. Last Friday, the trade union offered to suspend its strike action to allow for a further voluntary conciliation meeting tomorrow, but the employers have regretably declined to take up this offer (their precondition was that we should not embark on action today) and are only expected to discuss whether or not they should do so at their meeting later this afternoon. Whatever happens in their meeting later today, it appears that it would be too late to set up any proper logistics for such a voluntary conciliation meeting tomorrow given that employers are only due to decide later today on whether or not to accept the offer of a suspension of the strike action and a further conciliation meeting.
Clothing employers are currently offering a weekly wage increase of between R19 and R32 per week. This is equal to a 5% wage increase. But even this low offer is conditional on clothing workers agreeing to forfeit overtime- and other normal earnings for any form of absenteeism, even where such absenteeism is legally authorised. The trade union is demanding a 7.9% wage increase. Wage negotiations started as far back as April this year and the new wage increase was due on 1 September 2009. The trade union is of the view that its demands are reasonable and affordable, that it now only resorts to strike action as a last option because negotiations cannot continue inconclusively forever. Clothing workers are the lowest paid employees in the whole of the South Africa Manufacturing sector.
In the run up to the strike, the trade union had conducted a strike ballot among 46 600 clothing workers nationally, of whom 92% voted in favour of strike action in pursuit of their wage demands.
If further comment is required, kindly contact any of the following persons:
Andre Kriel, General Secretary on 021 4474570
Wayne van der Rheede: Deputy General Secretary, on 021 4474570 or 082 800 7143
Chris Gina: National Organinsing Secretary on 031 3011351 or 0829409456
Fachmy Abrahams: Co-ordinator in the Office of the General Secretary: 021 4474570 or 0733067605