Employers are offering a R35 per week increase. Workers are asking for R45. The bosses have rejected four alternative proposals put forward by the workers’ union, the SACTWU. “We are deeply disappointed by their arrogance and stubbornness to the struggle of their employees for a real and decent increase,” says Sheila van Rensburg, SACTWU’s Regional Organiser.
Workers in this sector make items such as bedding, duvets and comforters – which are sold in retailers around the country, including Woolworths, Game, Makro, @Home, Pep, Ackermans and Edgars. According to Bonita Loubser, SACTWU’s National Organising Secretary, “They labour so that others may rest easy, but their lives are characterised by hardship and discomfort”.
Most hometextile workers earn between R400 and R600 a week with which they have to support on average five people. Yet their expenses, according to a mini-survey by the SA Labour Research Institute, the research wing of SACTWU, average about R630 per family per week and include R220 spent on food and groceries, R115 on electricity and R110 on transport to work. It excludes spending on clothing, medicines and any leisure activities.
They are only able to make ends meet if another family member works or by borrowing heavily.
Often a worker is forced to choose between paying rent and buying food. Her boss, likely spends the equivalent of her week’s wage on one meal at a restaurant. We cannot accept this situation. As per the COSATU declaration, we condemn starvation wages and grotesque levels of inequality!
One might ask why these workers are striking over R10 per week? Why get up every morning to picket outside their factory for a R10 increase? Van Rensburg remarks “The workers do not want to strike for peanuts, but they are forced to because they earn peanuts and in their lives every peanut counts”.
Says Loubser, “SACTWU salutes the resilience of the striking workers in the face of hardship and condemns the reluctance of hometextile employers to accept workers’ barest demands”.
Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (SACTWU)
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