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» 28.03.2011 - SA workers to "invade Swaziland"
» 18.03.2011 - Unions to stop Walmart entering South Africa
» 23.03.2010 - World Cup business frustration hits SA taxis
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» 27.07.2009 - SA municipal workers on strike
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South Africa

South African unions threaten "unpatriotic" retailers

afrol News, 16 February - South Africa's Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) delivered a message to 199 retail stores yesterday: "...sign the agreement to source more clothing locally, or face mass action...". The retailers are the last ones not to sign a 'buy local' agreement and are thus termed "unpatriotic" by the trade union.

On 5 December last year, SACTWU and a large number of leading South African clothing retailers signed a 'buy local' agreement, which is to aid the country's struggling textile industry. The trade union, organising more than 110,000 workers, since then has urged the remaining retailers to sign the agreement.

Yesterday, SACTWU increased this pressure by delivering what the union calls "a unique Valentine's Day message" to the remaining 199 non-signing retailers, threatening with "mass action". Further, the union called the retailers "unpatriotic" for not signing the agreement.

Andre Kriel, SACTWU Deputy General Secretary, had signed the message to the retailers, which advised that "workers will take part in protest action to compel non-signatory companies to sign and implement the Declaration." Mr Kriel further notified non-signers that "all your stores are subject to a range of protest action."

Last year, SACTWU had negotiated with leading retailers to persuade them to source more of their clothing, textiles and leather goods locally, and thus in support of the national 'Proudly South African' campaign. An agreement was reached in December 2003, when these retailers agreed to increase the local sourcing to at least 75 percent, and to only source from manufacturing companies which comply with minimum legal conditions of employment.

The agreement has so far been signed by mostly South African retailers, but also by international clothing chains represented in South Africa, such as Woolworths. The "unpatriotic" non-signers include major South African players but also international companies in South Africa, such as Diesel, are targeted by the SACTWU campaign.

SACTWU in a statement today says it believes that the agreement is "necessary to stop the severe job losses in the industry." In 2003 alone, the union informs, some 21,000 clothing, textile and leather jobs were lost through factory closures, retrenchments, and liquidations. "Each job in the industry supports approximately 5 people," SACTWU holds. "This means that 100,000 South African have last access to an income from the industry last year."

Many of the jobs lost in South Africa have gone to countries with lower labour costs, which often do not grant basic labour rights. While Asian countries, in particular China, have seen the largest increase in textile production over the last years, South African workers also experience increased competition from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Mozambique and other African countries with export processing zones (EPZs).

More than one quarter of all adult South Africans are unemployed and the Pretoria government has found it difficult to create sufficient economic growth to make a significant impact on unemployment.

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