Sactwu’s arson claim ‘very dangerous’

2011-11-23 00:00

THE fire that gutted the office of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) in Newcastle last week did not start near the union office but some distance away, said the Newcastle municipality yesterday.

However, the union is adamant that the destruction of its office came in the wake of actions by the union to highlight “atrocious” labour and human rights abuses occurring in clothing factories in the area.

On Monday Sactwu general secretary, Andre Kriel said the union had previously indicated their “knowledge of threats against the safety of some of our officials” and urged authorities “to investigate the possibility of arson.”

Sactwu’s national organising secretary Chris Gina said the fire followed efforts by the union, the clothing bargaining council, the departments of Labour and Home Affairs to ensure that Newcastle clothing companies comply with South African labour laws and industry agreements.

“In September we made 12 visits to various factories where the labour enforcement agencies discovered that employees were treated like animals. In some firms women shared toilets with male employees and this has led to the labour enforcers taking action against the employers to rescue the employees from the harsh working conditions they were exposed to,” said Gina yesterday.

Newcastle municipality’s director of economic development, Ferdie Alberts, said the fire gutted the whole building, which also houses various businesses and other offices. “For Sactwu to lay the blame for the fire on factories involved in the clothing industry is a very dangerous allegation to make,” said Alberts.

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