Hope and a brighter future are on the horizon for the clothing and textile industry. In a national executive committee meeting of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) last week, it was revealed that the industry continued to stabilise with a slowdown in job losses.
The union said the number of jobs lost had declined by 66 percent between a 12-month period in 2010 and the corresponding period in 2013.
Breaking it down, Sactwu said, in 2010 a total of 10 119 jobs were lost, and this dropped to 5 338 in 2011.
For the year 2012, the industry suffered a further 5 330 job losses, while 3 416 posts were cut last year.
If these lowering numbers are anything to go by, the government and possibly the clothing retailers must be doing something right.
This is despite the fact that the industry has shrunk by 20 percent in the past three years and job losses were estimated at 29 500 between 2007 and 2010.
Sactwu had pinned its hopes on government initiatives, including the Competitiveness Improvement Programme of the Department of Trade and Industry.
The union has also just wrapped up a local procurement agreement with the espAfrika, the producer of the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
All the event’s clothing, textiles and leather memorabilia will be completely sourced from local manufacturers.
Sactwu hopes that this initiative will provide global exposure of the quality of South African manufactured products.
While the union may be in celebration mode, cheap imports from Chinese, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries remain a headache.
The fashion retail industry imports about 80 percent of its raw material.
However, there is a belief that the weakness of the rand will push local manufacturers to become more competitive and be readily available for quick fashion strategies applied by local retailers.
The heat ratcheted up a notch in the four-week strike over pay as platinum major Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) took to the Labour Court on Friday in a bid to terminate the stayaway that has been turning more violent by the day.
Whether or not the court action will complicate the ongoing government-led mediation at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) between employers and Amcu, remains to be seen.
The CCMA is facilitating the talks between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and Amplats, Lonmin and Impala Platinum.
Yesterday, the CCMA met with the producers as it seeks to resolve the strike over a R12 500 minimum wage. The negotiations continue tomorrow when the commission meets again with Amcu.
Amcu had previously indicated that platinum chief executives should be directly involved in the talks for a more speedy resolution.
Earlier this month, Mark Cutifani, the chief executive of Anglo American, which owns 80 percent of Amplats, said the company would “stand its ground” amid a strike that was hurting the economy.
On Friday, Amplats brought a contempt of court application against the union, which it accuses of breaking picketing rules that prohibit intimidation of non-striking employees and damage to property.
This came after Amcu ignored an earlier court order for it to follow the rules. Amcu is expected to deliver responding affidavits by Thursday and the application was postponed to March 5.
Amplats wants 39 senior leaders of Amcu, including president Joseph Mathunjwa and national treasurer Jimmy Gama, to be fined or incarcerated for contempt of court.
In addition, Amplats has sued the union for R591 million in damages suffered during the strike so far, and this figure is likely to grow.
With a second lost payday on the horizon, the 70 000 Amcu members on strike are likely to feel the pinch.
They have already lost 10 percent of their annual salary and will probably lose considerably more.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Nompumelelo Magwaza and Dineo Faku.