The government has put in more resources to help kick-start the textile and apparel industry back to its glory days. This time a grant of around R200 million has been thrown into a new cluster with the hope of giving the industry one voice.

The Southern African Sustainable Textile and Apparel Cluster will help the industry improve its global competitiveness.

In line with President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address two weeks ago urging the government to focus on improving the manufacturing sector, the cluster plans to put the country’s textile and apparel product on the global map.

The cluster manager, Heinrich Schultz, said it would help mend a highly fragmented industry. The industry is indeed fragmented especially when it comes to tracing apparel products imported illegally into the country. He noted that the cluster, working with retailers, would assist the government to overcome non-compliance and help with tracing goods.

The umbrella cluster will work with close to eight regional or sub-sectoral clusters which already exist.

These clusters already run competitiveness programmes with the Department of Trade and Industry and will not be affected by the newly established national cluster.

This all seems exciting, especially for an industry which was on the brink of collapse as a result of legal and illegal textile and apparel imports.

The industry has shrunk by 20 percent in the past three years and job losses were estimated at 29 500 between 2007 and 2010.

In other positive news, workers in the footwear sector were able to receive an 8 percent wage increase after a wage dispute was resolved.

Platinum jobs

The immediate battle in the platinum mining industry might well be over with no outright winner to claim a lion’s share of the spoils, but further skirmishes lie ahead, particularly on the restructuring of mines, which the employers have repeatedly warned they are wont to look at.

Anglo American Platinum was rather rudely interrupted in January last year when it said it had to cut 14 000 jobs because operations were not sustainable.

A barrage of criticism by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and a strong reprimand from the government forced it to lower the figure to 8 000, and still later to 3 000, as it tried to negotiate the tightrope between the reality and expectations of shareholders, the unions and the government.

The issue was eventually swallowed up with the beginning of the negotiations last year which, as it turned out, catapulted into the crisis just resolved.

But the problem has not gone away. If anything, it has grown with the need to pay higher salaries and benefits under an agreement penned yesterday with Amcu.

And therein lies the rub.

Amcu says it expects no sacking of workers over the agreement period, which spans from July 2013 to June 2016. “The companies have committed to no retrenchments,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Monday, adding that this commitment was going to last for the duration of the three-year deal to ensure productivity was not interrupted.

But the employers see it differently.

An industry source said “the producers are absolutely not committed to that. It’s not true.”

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said she was not aware of any “no job cuts” clause in the wage deal.

The companies, which claim to have lost more than R24 billion in revenue to the strike, have said the stoppage made restructuring and shedding of jobs inevitable.

If you listen carefully to the mystic winds blowing, you will hear the sabres rattling and this time the fight may well be to the death.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Nompumelelo Magwaza and Banele Ginindza.