On Tuesday 15 September 2009, a 55 000 clothing workers embarked on a national wage strike in support of their wage demands. The clothing employers met at a national meeting of their negotiating team on that afternoon and the next morning submitted a written revised wage offer to the trade union. In brief, the offer is for an 8% wage increase tightly linked to certain conditions.
The conditions state that workers must agree to loose part of their wage earnings if they are absent from work, even in instances where such absence are legally authorised. The employers have advised that their offer is open for acceptance until 06h00 today. On Friday 18 September 2009, the trade union advised them that we have rejected their revised offer because it is not a new offer (the very same offer was tabled to and rejected by the union on 26 August 2009), because it does not provide for a decent increase for non-metro area workers (who are the lowest paid in the industry with a machinist's minimum wage at R326 per week) and because the conditionalities attached are not accepatble to our members. We have no idea why employers have tabled the same offer which was already rejected three weeks ago when there was no strike.
We have earlier today received a letter from the Director of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), offering to assist to resolve the dispute. The offer is made in terms of Section 150 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). This section states as follows: "If the Commission is aware of a dispute that has not been referred to it and if resolution of the dispute would be in the public interest, the Commission may offer to appoint qa commissioner to attempt to resolve the dispute through conciliation"
The CCMA has also stated that there offer to assist is also because the clothing industry has been identified in the NEDLAC-agreed South Africa's Frameoiwrk Responce to the International Economic Crises as in need of special assistance, as well because it has received special mention in President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address.
The CCMA has offered to appoint a senior conciliator to mediate the dispute at its Johannesburg Head Office from 10h00 on Tuesday 22 September 2009.
In terms of Section 150, the parties must consent to this process.SACTWU has accepted the CCMA's offer as we believe that even though our strike is growing stronger by the day, it is always better to find a settlement thereof. We have no idea whether the employers will accept the CCMA offer.
It is within the means of the employers to solve this dispute and the strike. We call on them to do so sooner rather than later. Our wage demand is reasonable and affordable.
Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union