How to cut coat according to cloth

2011-10-08 10:31

The agreement between textile industry employers and the worker representative in the industry, the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union, to offer a 30% lower wage to new employees in an effort to create jobs and grow the sector, is a remarkable act of pragmatism in these trying economic times.

The textile industry has taken a pounding, especially from cheap Chinese imports, and lost more than 70?000 jobs in the last six years.

The agreement is therefore to be applauded for the bravery of the parties and their earnest ­attempts to sacrifice ideological positions for the best interests of their industry, workers and the unemployed youth; and for putting specific ­targets and timelines to measure the outcomes.

What is innovative about the plan is that it ­deals with the legitimate concern raised by labour that employers will exploit any hole that ­allows for some categories of employees to earn a wage lower than the average. But that does not mean that the unions have given the employers a blank cheque.

Young workers are expected to take a lower wage and employers must create 5?000 jobs by March 2014 or the agreement falls away.

We hope when the time comes the agreement will merely need to be fine-tuned and then other industries will use it as a template for their own agreements.

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