Wednesday, 30 March 2011 11:53
The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has noted the alarmist propaganda being spread by the United Clothing & Textile Association (UCTA). In essence, UCTA claim that the companies which they represent jointly employ 28 000 clothing workers, and that the SACTWU has refused to listen to their concerns regarding their claimed inability to pay the legally set minimum wage for the clothing industry. They further claim that they are not even able to meet the concession that the trade union has granted for non-compliant companies to at least pay 70% of the minimum wage by 1 April 2011, and that hundreds of factories would close, causing thousands of job losses in consequence.
SACTWU disputes that they are not able to meet this concession to pay 70% of the legally prescribed minimum wage, and regards this as a slap in the face of a hand of goodwill extended by the trade union. Clothing workers are the lowest paid in the whole of the domestic manufacturing sector. The minimum wage for a qualified machinist in an area like Newcastle is R449 per week, of which non-compliant companies are required to pay only 70% (i.e R314) per week from 1st April this year. There are many companies who pay the legally prescribed minimum wage and who remain competitive.
We also reject the alarm that they are trying to spread in the market, by claiming that the clothing bargaining council will close down hundreds of companies, in the next few days, which are not able to meet the new 70% thresh-hold of the minimum wage. The facts are that in the few weeks following 1 April, the bargaining council is required to conduct an assessment of the extent of compliance with the phase-in agreement and to table a report at a meeting of the employer and trade union parties to the council. SACTWU is committed to continue to work with those employers who have made a genuine effort to comply. Those employers who have continued to deliberately defy our goodwill regrettably will have to face the full might of the law. We have made the patterns of rewards and punishment clear right from the beginning and will not flinch from our responsibilities in this regard.
SACTWU further disputes that UCTA member companies combined employ 28 000 workers. Similar claims in the past have proven to be untrue exaggerations. In this regard specifically, we have noted that the Registrar of Labour Relations has recently declined to register UCTA as a legitimate employers’ association, unless they can properly prove their membership credentials as is required by the provisions of the Labour Relations Act. They have yet to do so and are thus currently without any legal standing in the South African industrial relations system.
SACTWU’s simple challenges to UCTA are the following:
*take steps to register your employers’ association by complying with the registration requirements of the Labour Relations Act, inclusive of proving your claimed membership credentials;
*once UCTA is a legally registered employer association, join the clothing bargaining council as a party employer’s association.
Once these two simple steps have been complied with, SACTWU would without hesitation agree to enter into negotiations with UCTA, to explore how their concerns could be accommodated.
Until then, the union regards UCTA’s claims as illegitimate, constituting continued deliberate defiance of our country’s legal industrial relations framework and an illegally unfair competitive attack on those hundreds of compliant clothing employers who actually do pay the legally prescribed minimum wage. The union cannot condone illegality.
For further comment, kindly contact SACTWU’s National Clothing Sector Co-ordinator and Deputy General Secretary, Wayne van der Rheede, on 021 4474570 or 082 800 7143