Two factories closed, four more to go at Newcastle

2011-05-04 00:00

THE National Bargaining Council in the Clothing and Textile sector has shut down two textile factories in the Newcastle area and is preparing to close down another four as it fights the owners to pay the workers 70% of the legal minimum wage.

The bargaining council and the factories have been locked in a minimum wage dispute for the past eight months.

Chairperson of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Alex Lui said the two factories were shut down yesterday morning. One was his factory, Simunye, and the other Starfair.

The closure of these factories will cost at least 300 workers their jobs and the pending closure is expected to affect thousands more.

Lui said he was surprised by the closure of his factory as he was still in negotiation with the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) to restructure his business to meet the minimum wage demands.

The restructuring would involve laying off some workers to increase the wages of the remaining workforce to meet the minimum wage demands.

He said the actions of the bargaining council are inappropriate. “I believe that because I am one of the negotiators with the bargaining council, they believed that I am one of the troublemakers and they started out by shutting me down.”

He said their members had planned to meet last night to decide a way forward. “Our problem is that the inspector has closed down our factories, but has not been here once to check whether the factories were complying with the council.

“Our members have decided that if the bargaining council continues with its … actions, we will close down the factories on Thursday and on Friday in protest.”

In a statement, the United Clothing and Textile Association (UCTA) said it has been told that the bargaining council is planning to close down factories.

Wayne van Der Rheede of Sactwu said the factories were closed down due to non-compliance.

“As for other factories, we will monitor the situation on a daily basis,” he said.

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