By Mwangi Githathu
The Southern African Clothing and Textiles Workers’ Union (Sactwu) has reported 156 clothing and textile companies to the department of employment and labour for alleged non-compliance with Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Covid-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) applications.
In a letter submitted to the department’s director-general, Thobile Maliti, the union wants immediate compliance enforcement inspections be conducted at these companies.
Sactwu general secretary André Kriel said: “The letter was submitted to the director-general last Friday evening. For some time now, Sactwu has expressed serious concerns about companies which have not applied for the Ters benefit for their employees. Despite repeated reminders, these 156 employers have not replied to the union’s request for them to confirm that they had indeed made such applications.
“The union would have preferred co-operation from these employers in order to address the matter more constructively, but clearly they were not prepared to co-operate.”
This move comes in the wake of Sactwu declaring a national wage dispute involving 60000 workers in the domestic clothing sector after the failure of three rounds of wage negotiations to deliver a settlement.
Sactwu’s national collective bargaining officer Fahmy Abrahams said: “The union has submitted demands that asked for an increase in wages annually over the next two years, as well as improvements on conditions of employment and organisational rights.
“Our demands were also cost-related and we sought a commitment from employers to secure our members’ jobs through the Ters assistance that was provided by the government, as well as commitments from employers to ensure the health and safety of our members as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Abrahams.
“In the Western Cape, we have approximately 16000 clothing workers registered with the Bargaining Council.”
“The dispute has been declared against five employer associations. These are the South African Apparel Association; the Apparel and Textile Association of South Africa; the Transvaal Clothing Manufacturing Association; the Eastern Province Clothing Manufacturing Association and the SA Clothing Manufacturers Association.”
The dispute is with regards to improvement in wages and conditions of employment and is not related to the lockdown agreement concluded in March.
In April, Sactwu members were the first in South Africa to receive an industry-wide Covid-19 UIF relief payout
This followed what was at the time referred to as “a ground-breaking collective agreement” concluded under the auspices of the clothing industry bargaining council, on March 23 and which was promulgated as law by Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi on March 26.