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SACTWU wins R3 million settlement for Western Cape clothing workers
Apr '11
The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) has won a R3 million arrear wage payment settlement for clothing workers in the Western Cape. The background is as follows:

In September 2009, clothing workers embarked on a three week living wage national strike, essentially in resistance to clothing bosses' attempts to cut workers' prescribed minimum wages and social benefits. Part of the strike fell on 24 September 2009 (Heritage Day), which was a paid public holiday in terms of the industry main agreement. Employers affiliated to the Apparal Manufacturers' Association of South Africa (AMSA especially in the W Cape and KZN), refused to pay workers for the 24th September holiday.

They argued that since workers were on strike, they had automatically forfeited their right to be paid. . The matter was then submitted to expedited arbitration on Monday 18 April 2011, under the auspices of the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry. Arbitrator Advocate C De Kock has now ruled in favour of the trade union, but will supply his reasons later. He has ruled as follows:

“The members of the Respondent who has NOT paid the members of the Applicant (union) in full for 24 September 2009, excluding those employees who have entered into and reached settlement agreements with their respective employers in this regard, is herewith ordered to pay to the said employees full or additional payment or to give full or additional time off, as may be required, so as to ensure that they receive full payment or full time off for the 24th of September 2009.”

The settlement amounts to one day's full back pay for unpaid wages on 24 September 2009, and is worth just under R2.95 million (benchmarked at a machinists 2009 rate of R693 per week ) for at least 21 312 clothing workers employed in the Western Cape and registered with the bargaining council at the time. Conciliation proceedings for the same matter for KZN workers are underway today in Durban. If this fails, the union will pursue the matter through arbitration for KZN workers also. For the rest of the country, it appears that employers have paid for the 2009 Heritage Day holiday.

Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (SACTWU)

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