Raids cloud future of factories

2011-10-14 00:00

THE clothing and textile industry in the Newcastle area faces an uncertain future following a raid by the Labour Department, the SA Police service and the industry’s bargaining council three weeks ago.

The raids on September 29 involved teams of up to 15 members simultaneously combing factories for about five hours.

Twelve Chinese-owned factories were raided and one operation was closed by written order.

The employers saw the raid and closure as an intensification of a campaign by the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) to pressurise “non-compliant” clothing factories.

They responded by closing down their shops in protest against the raids. The shops re-opened on Saturday.

This is not the first time that the factory owners have closed down their outlets and locked out the workers in protest.

Last year the Chinese owners took similar action to protest the bargaining council’s demands for the factories to pay the minimum wage.

The raids uncovered safety hazards, illegal workers, inadequate and unhygienic toilet facilities, failure to register for or pay contributions to unemployment insurance and workmen’s compensation funds in some factories, as well as non-compliance with the 70% wage requirement, among other infringements of labour laws.

Alex Liu of the Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce said his members have scheduled a meeting with the authorities to find out what steps the chamber can take to help them improve the working conditions of their employees and comply with the law.

But he said he was disappointed by the nature of the tactics used during the raid.

“They had brought the police to raid the factories and I believe the police should have been out there catching criminals.”

He warned that the future of the textile and clothing sector in the Newcastle area is in jeopardy.

“At this stage the situation is unattainable and no business can operate under such pressure from the authorities. If it continues like this I am afraid this will be the destruction of the clothing and textile sector in Newcastle.”

Dennis Maluleka, the regional secretary of Sactwu in KZN, said he does not believe that the factories will close down.

“We have made concessions for them to remain in that area,” he added.


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