Home Press Releases Archived 2013 10 000 Clothing Workers strike against low wages
10 000 Clothing Workers strike against low wages PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 16:41

Press Statement: Immediate

Approximately 10 000 Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) members from the clothing industry, mainly in KZN, have yesterday and today embarked on protected strike action against member companies of the United Clothing & Textile Association (UCTA).

This ‘warning’  strike was in protest against UCTA’s continued undermining of the clothing bargaining council and their continued payment of wages below the legally prescribed levels. 

In Newcastle alone, where the prescribed minimum starting wage is as low as only R414 per week, 4 200 workers participated in the action yesterday. Today, just over 3 000 workers in QwaQwa struck. The balance of about 3000 workers who supported the strike, were from other parts of the KZN province.

SACTWU protesters delivered a memorandum to the UCTA Head Office yesterday. A copy of the memorandum is provided below. The strike has now been suspended, as SACTWU only wished it to be a warning to employers who fail to obey the law and who continue to underpay our members.

SACTWU’s core demand is immediate compliance with the legally prescribed minimum wage and an end to UCTA’s sustained attack on clothing workers.

Clarification note:  the prescribed minimum starting wage was increased on 22 April 2013, from R369 per week previously to R414.  The increase was gazetted by the Minister of Labour, following a negotiated agreement between SACTWU and various bargaining council party clothing employer associations, signed on 1st October last year.

Issued by
Andre Kriel
General Secretary

If further comment is required, kindly contact SACTWU National Organising Secretaries Chris Gina on cell number 0829409456 or Bonita Loubser on 0828007142, or our KZN Regional Secretary Dennis Maluleka on cell number 0833785435


The United Clothing and Textiles Association (UCTA) is an association of employers whose members practice some of the worst forms of abuse of clothing workers in South Africa, and which is trying to drag South African clothing workers back to pre-apartheid forms of employment.  

In this regard, we note that UCTA companies are overwhelmingly non-compliant and break the laws and agreements that try to protect the rights of clothing workers in South Africa. This includes breaking the basic conditions of employment for clothing workers and exposing workers to illegal health and safety conditions at work and undermining workers’ health and safety related rights. Amongst many other things, this translates into: paying workers illegally low wages; not registering workers with the Department of Labour and the clothing bargaining council; not making UIF contributions (amongst others) to the Department of Labour for employees, leaving workers vulnerable should they become unemployed; not providing workers with any (or legitimate) payslips, which prevents workers from understanding their pay, and prevents them from accessing credit from retailers; violating workers’ health rights by denying workers access to clean and adequate toilet facilities, by not providing first aid support to workers who injure themselves at work, and by not taking sufficient precautions regarding mechanical and other health risks at work; victimising workers who join the union; and making illegal, unfair and penalty deductions from workers’ already very low wages.  
There are many other violations recorded at UCTA companies, and workers at UCTA companies have complained for years about the abuses that they suffer at the hands of their employers. Enough is enough!

We note that UCTA has repeatedly been invited by us to join the clothing bargaining council and represent its members’ at the legitimate industry bargaining forum. We note that the union and the clothing bargaining council have given UCTA companies many opportunities to become compliant. However UCTA and its members have instead chosen to remain largely outside the law (in terms of wages and conditions of employment), and have tried to undermine, and ultimately attempt to collapse the collective bargaining structures for clothing workers in South Africa. Instead of trying to comply with the law, UCTA members want the law to comply with them, and with their model of abusing workers.  

Furthermore, we note that UCTA has also been involved in the creation of bogus co-operatives. Bogus co-operatives are not true co-operatives - where workers are empowered with democratic decision-making and the full power to determine the nature of their work, including their pay. Instead bogus co-operatives are simply restructured businesses that remain under the de facto control of the employer, where workers continue to be treated as employees (despite legally being members or ‘shareholders’ of the co-operative), and where loopholes in the law are used by employers to pay workers less and avoid paying their statutory benefits.  

UCTA wants to break the power that workers have spent decades building to try to protect themselves against abuses.

UCTA wants to lower the legal wages of workers.
UCTA pretends that workers at their members’ companies are actually happy with the treatment they get from their employers! But this is not true. Workers want a better life. Workers do not want to be treated like animals. 

Workers from Newcastle and Durban, and later from Qwa Qwa, are gathering to protest against UCTA’s continued non-compliance with South African labour laws and protections. Our demand is full and immediate compliance with the latest gazetted industry agreement, and an end to UCTA’s sustained attack on workers.  

Memo received by__________________          on this day of_____ May 2013                  

Signature:     ______________    

Witness: ________________