Picture: Courtney Africa.

Johannesburg -

The SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union has declared a wage dispute in the clothing sector because factory bosses refused to table an offer and wanted to impose a wage freeze instead.

Sactwu is demanding a long-term agreement. The current agreement is for one year.

The union also demands wage increases, improvements in retirement funding, better trade union organisational rights, employer contributions to the union’s HIV and Aids awareness and treatment campaign and additional pay.

The union said employers had failed to table a response to their demands during the first round of negotiations.

“Employers’ responses to date ranged between a wage freeze and 5.5 percent wage increase,” Sactwu deputy general secretary Chris Gina said.

“The employers were unable to give us a response to what we demanded. The union has referred the dispute to the clothing industry bargaining council. We want to reach an agreement that is more than a year - two years to be exact.

“What’s more, the union will not accept anything less than a double-digit wage increase.

“During the second round of negotiations in Durban next month, we want the employers to take these negotiations seriously and give us a reasonable increase.

“Should they fail to do so, we will look for another tactic. We can’t say we will go on strike or anything like that, but we want them to give us something that can benefit our members.”

The negotiations are on May 21 and 22.

“This is the most crucial round of negotiations because there will be only one round after this one in Durban. We are going to use this round as a measurement of whether we have a settlement or not. We want to impress on the employers to take these negotiations seriously and pull up their socks.” he said.

The union has more than 50 000 members. A clothing worker earns about R897 a week in urban areas and R630 in rural areas.

“We want to reach an agreement with them. They must just be reasonable because we don’t want any further disputes in the future,” said Gina.

Cape Clothing Association executive director Johann Baard said they would continue to look for solutions with the unions.

“Disputes always happen during the negotiations. We will continue dialogues with the unions where we will (offer) solutions to their demands. We remain confident that we will reach an agreement which the parties will be happy about.

“We will certainly make sure that we bring the process of negotiations back on track in Durban. All the parties need to play by the rules.

“We’ve had disputes in the past but we always find a solution,” Baard said.

He would not comment on the wage demands and said: “It’s not appropriate to be talking about that right now. All we want is fairness between the parties involved.”

Cape Times

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