Newcastle workers give two weeks to pay, 'or close shop’

2011-05-11 00:00

TEXTILE factories in the Newcastle area have two weeks to meet the bargaining council’s demand to pay their workers 70% of a minimum wage or face being closed down.

Two factories, Simunye Clothing and Star Fair, were closed down last week, but reopened after they obtained a court order on the basis that the bargaining council is due to re-inspect the factories at the end of May.

However, three or four other factories are likely to be closed down before the end of this week.

At least 30% of the 8 000 jobs in the sector in Newcastle are at risk over the wage demands.

National compliance manager at the clothing manufacturing industry’s national bargaining council, Leon Deetlefs, visited the Newcastle area on Monday to inspect the levels of compliance and to address the factory owners.

He told factory owners the only way to avoid being shut down is to comply with the bargaining council’s resolution.

Said Alex Liu, owner of Simunye and chairperson of the Chinese chamber of commerce, “When the meeting was called we were hoping for more negotiations on the matter, but the representative of the council told us the only way we can avoid being shut down is if we meet the 70% minimum wage demand.

“What we are also concerned about is that many workers are going to lose their jobs because, in order to meet the 70% demand we will have to retrench some workers.”

Plans by Simunye Clothing to retrench workers have been halted by the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu).

Simunye planned to retrench all the workers and rehire fewer of them. Sactwu said in a statement on Monday it has obtained an interdict against the retrenchments.

Deetlefs said an inspection of factories in the Newcastle area found that about 50% were not complying with the law and that the factory owners they had asked him to help them become compliant.

“There are about three of four factories that could be shut down by the end of the week because they are not complying with the law.”

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