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Agreement on duty free woven fabrics is a breakthrough in saving South African jobs

24 February, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) welcomes the textile rebates published in the South Africa Government Gazette and describes the rebates as a breakthrough that will save garment and textile jobs as well as boost manufacturing at small, medium, and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs).

The 5 February notice states that there will be duty free imports for woven fabrics. SACTWU says this policy shift will promote growth in the textile and garment manufacturing sectors. Further, it will stimulate local procurement and increase the sector’s contribution to the industrialization of the country.
This will save jobs in an economy where unemployment is high.  According to Statistics South Africa’s 2020 4th Quarterly report unemployment is 32, 5 per cent, and as high as 42, 5 per cent if you consider the expanded unemployment rate that includes discouraged job seekers.

The notice came after four-months of negotiations with social dialogue partners including retailers, garment manufacturers and textile mills. The employers involved in the negotiations represent 75 per cent of SMMEs while SACTWU represents 90 per cent of the workers.
The negotiations took place under the Retail, Clothing, Textile, Footwear and Leather (R-CTFL) masterplan.

Andre Kriel, SACTWU general secretary says:

“The consensus reached in this industrial development agreement is unprecedented. Together, these employers and labour organizations constitute the most representative industry voice on this rebate matter. Importantly, the imported fabric can only be used by companies that are signatories to the R-CTFL Masterplan and are compliant with minimum labour standards.”

The R-CTFL masterplan, launched by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, aims to develop the textile and garment value chain. The value chain includes spinning, woven, dyeing, knitted, and finishing of natural and synthetic fibre inputs and leather tanning.
Cut-make-trim, design houses, garment, and household textile manufacturers, as well as leather and shoe manufacturers are also part of the value chain. Locally sourced and imported products are also included while retail deals with domestic and international markets.

The social dialogue partners that took part in the negotiations are the National Clothing Retail Federation (NCRF) representing garment retailers, Apparel and Textile Association of South Africa (ATASA), the South African Apparel Association (SAAA), and Apparel Manufacturers of South Africa (AMSA) representing garment manufacturers, and the Textile Federation (Texfed) representing textile mills.

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says:

“We commend SACTWU for consistently fighting for agreements that are beneficial to workers. The garment and textile sector value chain is key to South Africa’s industrialization and the creation of decent jobs.”

The social dialogue partners presented the plan to government in September 2020. SACTWU says the breakthrough is long overdue after four decades of discussions.

Photo credit: ©EIF/Simon Hess, Flickr