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Calls mount to prioritise clothing workers’ Covid-19 vaccinations

A lab worker holds a vial of J&J coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate in an undated photograph. Picture: Johnson & Johnson/Handout via Reuters

A lab worker holds a vial of J&J coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate in an undated photograph. Picture: Johnson & Johnson/Handout via Reuters

Published Feb 28, 2021


Concerns have been raised that although South Africans are being encouraged to buy local, clothing and textile workers are not part of the essential workers category prioritised to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “All social partners that participated in the development of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, as part of our social compact, have agreed to work together to reduce our reliance on imports by 20% over the next five years.”

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Personal protective equipment (PPE) were in great demand at the start of the pandemic and all spheres of the government were encouraged to buy local to boost the economy.

Western Cape chairperson of the SA Federation of Trade Unions, Nyaniso Siyana said buying local has not been a state priority, which was why the clothing and textile workers were overlooked.

“The essential workers grouping needs to be expanded and not to be narrowly looked at… they are only looking at health workers and not the broader essential services like even those in the retail sector.

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“These people have been operating even during level 5 of the lockdown,” said Siyana. “The clothing and textile workers are important, the clothes they are busy working with are for the public, and even staff at Eskom are essential workers.”

Meanwhile, the SA Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (Sactwu) has adopted a 10-point programme on the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out promotion campaign. This is a campaign to educate clothing workers about the vaccine but also will “set a target to achieve an industry immunity" vaccination rate.

Sactwu first national organising secretary Bonita Loubser said although the clothing and textile workers have not been prioritised in the vaccination roll-out they are not overlooked.

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“There are criteria listed by the Department of Health in terms of the state’s vaccination programme. In the healthcare system of the bargaining council we have quite a huge pool of our members who fit the criteria of comorbidity cases. At the moment in our industry we do have operating healthcare services to our members.

“We are aware the state resources might not reach the entire population and it is our view that we can play a meaningful role in the campaigning element and awareness element and more importantly the actual vaccination as a service,” said Loubser.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize addressed the Sactwu national executive committee earlier this month and in the upcoming National Clothing Bargaining Council meeting between the union and employers on March 1 an agreement will hopefully be reached on a vaccine roll-out plan.

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