Factories open after stand-off

2010-09-01 00:00

CLOTHING factories in Newcastle, that had closed down due to a wage stand-off between the employers and the bargaining council of the clothing and manufacturing sector, were re-opened yesterday after the employers were told that the provincial government would intervene to resolve the impasse.

At least 70 factories employing an estimated 7 000 workers were shut down on Monday and the owners had threatened the shutdown would last a week.

This after the bargaining council had accused two factories in the area of underpaying its workers, shutting them down and attaching their assets.

The two factories are apparently part of nine factories in the area that had been identified by the council as failing to comply with the minimum wage labour regulations. One of the factories in the area was accused of paying its workers R90 a week.

This led to a stand-off between the employers and the council and the employers decided to close down their factories in protest.

Alex Liu, chairperson of the Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce, had said they had decided to re-open their factories after they were promised on Monday that the provincial government would intervene on the situation.

“This decision was taken in good faith after feedback has been received from both the union and the Bargaining Council that provincial and possible national intervention is going to take place in the clothing and knitwear sector.”

He said a meeting will be scheduled to deal with their concerns and find an amicable solution.

Speaking on the closure, Liu said they had been aggrieved by the council. “They released a statement claiming that a Chinese factory in Newcastle was paying workers R90 a week which is not true.

“This created an impression that the Chinese business people were exploiting their workers, “he said.

Other business people, who declined to be named, said they are concerned about the power of the bargaining council and said they hoped for an amicable solution or they would be forced to leave the area permanently.

Ferdie Alberts, the director of economic development at the Newcastle Municipality, said the problem should be resolved quickly as it threatened 7 000 jobs in an area with a high unemployment rate.

Leon Deetlefs, national compliance manager at the clothing manufacturing industry’s national bargaining council, said the bargaining council’s drive was aimed at compelling factory owners to comply with the prescribed minimum wage.

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