Several jobs at risk in South African apparel sector

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Apparel Manufacturers of South Africa (AMSA), a body representing five out of every six garment sector employers in the country, has sought intervention of Durban’s labour court for compelling the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry (NBC) to close about 400 companies that are not willing to comply with the minimum wage norms.
As a result, around 21,000 people, who work at the non-complying factories, are at a risk of losing their jobs from September 1, 2012, when the current policy of giving 30 percent lower wages to new workers would come to an end.
AMSA Executive Director Johann Baard said they took recourse to the legal route to ensure that action was taken against those companies that do not comply with wage norms.
The United Clothing and Textile Association (UCTA), which represents most of the non-compliant companies, said the firms cannot afford to abide by minimum wages if the prices are not realigned throughout the entire value chain, including retailers.
UCTA members pay their workers based on the level of production as well as on the basis of geographical demographics.
UCTA has approached the KwaZulu-Natal High Court against the Department of Labour and has sought a review of pay scale in the entire clothing sector in South Africa.
According to AMSA, over 40 percent of employees in the South African garment industry, who are registered with the NBC, were not paid remuneration as per the NBC minimum wage norms.
As a result, AMSA members end up paying more salaries and it has resulted in decrease in its membership as well as a shift in retail orders away from the wage compliant companies.
Compared to the minimum wage of R481 a week for a machinist in the garment industry, non-compliant firms pay only about R340, AMSA said.
According to South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU), the job loss in the garment sector decreased from 11,000 jobs in 2010 to around 5,000 jobs last year.

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