Newcastle chamber upset at union-led raids on textile factories

2011-10-05 00:00

THE Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry has criticised the way that recent raids inspired by the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union on various Newcastle clothing factories were conducted.

But the chamber refused to comment on allegations of human rights violations resulting from poor working conditions at several factories.

SACTWU said the raids exposed several examples of unacceptable working conditions, including poor and unhygienic toilet facilities and the employment of illegal immigrants.

The Witness yesterday that it will respond to specific issues arising from the raids once it receives a detailed report from the Labour Department.

Liu said the chamber has requested a meeting between its disciplinary committee chairperson and the Labour Department, SACTWU and the National Bargaining Council of the Clothing Manufacturing Industry.

Clothing factories in Newcastle, many of which are members of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have been embroiled in a long-standing dispute with SACTWU and the National Bargaining Council over wage rates.

A phased-in wage rate agreement was reached (and gazetted) in March and the final phase, in which companies must pay the full 100% wage rate, and will kick in on April 1, 2012.

Liu said it is estimated that the number of people employed in the sector in Newcastle has dropped from 10 000 to less than 7 000 in the past year, adding that at least one factory has closed down.

The Witness yesterday that the union is planning further raids on factories in Newcastle.

Gina said that the raids were conducted by the Labour Department, the National Bargaining Council of the Clothing Manufacturing Industry, the SA Police Service and the Home Affairs Department.

He said investigations into 40 factories were conducted, adding that the latest raid, which took place on Thursday, involved 12 of the “worst offending factories”.

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