About 40 000 clothing and textile workers will cast a ballot in the next two weeks to show or withhold support for a national strike after wage talks between the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) and employers failed.
About 10 611 workers in 102 factories have already shown their support for a strike.
At the centre of the dispute is the union’s rejection of a wage offer by the Apparel Manufacturers of SA (Amsa) for non-metro workers.
Amsa had proposed a R32.50 increase a week for non-metro B level workers, who work in rural areas, but the union is demanding a R45 increase effective from September 1.
So far, both the parties have settled for a 6.5 percent increase for metro workers and have yet to agree on an effective discount of 20 percent on a starting wage. This will allow entry-level employees to be paid 80 percent of the standard wage.
Amsa executive director Johann Baard said although both parties had agreed on the 80 percent entry-level wage, “there are still outstanding issues over regulating the incentive provision”.
He said non-metro wage bills had escalated by 65 percent in the past three years, adding that some of the non-metro factories did not comply with minimum wage agreements.
However, Sactwu said it could never agree to the 80 percent entry-level wage because this would cause massive job losses of current workers and would lead to a new set-up of overnight factories.
Yesterday Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said members had grown impatient over the constant backtracking by the employer. The union saw no point in engaging in wage talks because Amsa kept reneging on previous positions.
“For Sactwu, a strike is a… last resort. We have tried our best to find a negotiated solution to the dispute. Regrettably, that moment of last resort has now arrived,” he said.
He added that the final decision to strike rested with union members, who would execute their mandate by participating in a ballot. However, Baard said news had been trickling in that workers at Pep Clothing, one of the largest clothing manufacturers in the Western Cape, had voted against a strike.
Baard added that Amsa’s main concern was that the existing national agreement on wages was not enforced.
“This is a concern because our members were paying workers the full benefits agreed in national wage negotiations. Our members have to compete with non-compliant factories who are paying much lower wages.”
Amsa said its court application to compel the clothing bargaining council to close about 400 non-compliant factories would be heard in the Durban Labour Court next month.