File picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)
The South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) and the National Union of Leather and Allied Workers Union (Nulaw) have rejected a wage offer from their employers, Southern African Footwear and Leather Industries, citing a “living wage in the footwear manufacturing sector”.

Wage talks had deadlocked between employers and the unions after Sactwu demanded a 9.5% wage increase for 2018, while Saflia offered a 6.25% increase. The unions have now threatened to down tools. Sactwu said it had more than 10000 workers in the industry.

Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said the union would consult its members through a strike ballot.

“We have now written to Saflia and all other footwear employers to inform them that we will commence with a strike ballot of our members during the course of this week.

“The purpose of the strike ballot is to seek a mandate from our members to strike in pursuit of our demand for a living wage in the footwear manufacturing sector,” he said.

The dispute came after Saflia and the two unions - Sactwu and National Union of Leather and Allied Workers Union (Nulaw) - could not reach a settlement after two rounds of negotiations and a conciliation meeting held on June 28.

Sactwu national collective bargaining officer Vilina Membinkosi said a strike would be national if members voted in favour of the ballot.

“Currently we have taken up our balloting processes and intend to finish, possibly, this coming Thursday.

“We’ll start the counting process immediately after that.

“We are inviting the employers’ association to be part of the balloting and counting processes.

“We hope we’ll finish the counting process by Monday, after which we’ll announce the outcome of the ballot.”

The union is obliged, in terms of the Labour Relations Act, to give a 48 hours notice to employers of their intentions if workers proposed to strike, he added.

Saflia’s executive director Jirka Vymetal said: “In response to our offer of 6.25%, our industry is under immense strain.

“In the last 10 years we have not worked so much short-time as we are doing now. It’s very evident the pressure we are under, and in our humble opinion and considering the economic trading climate, we feel that it’s a fair offer, and we sincerely hope that common sense prevails.”

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