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Power crisis forces SA workers into unpaid short-time
Jun '15
A severe energy crisis is playing havoc with workers and factories in the clothing, textile, footwear and leather (CTFL) manufacturing sectors in South Africa. For workers, the crisis often leads to short-time (when workers are sent home during load-shedding and periods thereafter and do not earn any wages during this time), SA clothing and textile workers’ union (SACTWU) said in a press release after a survey by its research wing the SA labour research institute (SALRI).

The research was in preparation for the union’s Fashion Imbizo, taking place in Cape Town on June 9 under the theme: “Energising the CTFL sector: the energy crisis and emerging opportunities”.

The survey covered 112 companies nationally in the CTFL and allied industries engaged in the manufacture of fibres or yarn, knitted or woven fabric, wearing apparel, leather, footwear, general leather goods and handbags. These companies employ almost 17,000 workers.

The intention of the survey was to identify the effect load-shedding has on the industry and workers and what companies are doing to mitigate this.

As a result of load-shedding, 17 per cent of workers in companies surveyed have been put on short-time, meaning about 1 in 6 workers have sat at home at some stage with no pay due to load-shedding. In addition, 14 per cent of workers are facing the possibility of short-time in the near future. There is also concern of future retrenchments occurring as a result of problems with the supply of electricity.

Whereas it is commonly understood that load-shedding occurs mostly in two-hour blocks, the effects of load-shedding on manufacturing industries extend beyond this. The true impact of load-shedding on businesses is higher and SACTWU claims its survey revealed that in the CTFL and allied industries, it can take on average an additional two hours after electricity returns to regain maximum productivity. In other words, the actual impact of load-shedding costs the industry double the hours of standard load-shedding while trying to regain productivity.

The survey revealed that more than 80 per cent of manufacturers surveyed rely solely on the energy provided by power supplier Eskom as a source of power – meaning that these manufactures go on complete shut-down during load-shedding. The industry has been slow at implementing alternative sources of power such as generators and renewable sources such as solar power citing the high costs as the main hindrance to the implementation.

SACTWU has organised the Fashion Imbizo to discuss solutions to the current situation. It has invited Eskom to discuss alternatives to the current load-shedding with labour and business and the industrial development corporation (IDC) and the national cleaner production centre (NCPC) to share with manufacturers how they can reduce their dependence on the grid and save energy. (SH)

Fibre2fashion News Desk – India

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