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Union-run clinics in South African garment sector certified for Covid-19 vaccination

8 July, 2021Industrial primary health care clinics in the garment sector, run by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) and some employers, are now certified by the department of health to carry out Covid-19 vaccinations.

On 3 July, 15 workers received their vaccine jabs at a trial which was done at a clinic in Durban. The clinics, which have the capacity to vaccinate at least 6,000 workers per week, will be linked to the national vaccination roll-out programme.

The union-run clinics have been providing health facilities to garment workers for many decades - the first was established in 1942 - and are part of the union’s health and safety strategy. They are managed with support from the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry as part of South Africa’s tripartite industrial relations system.

The union efforts are contributing to a national roll-out programme to vaccinate as many workers and people as possible against a ravaging wave of Covid-19 infections which have recently multiplied because of the more contagious delta variant now dominant in the country. Unions are expressing concern over the slow pace of vaccination.

Andre Kriel, SACTWU general secretary says:

“This exciting development follows on the recent conclusion of successful negotiations for a historic Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Framework Agreement for our industry, which was signed between SACTWU and all clothing employer associations in April. Part of the framework agreement states that we will make available our industry health care clinics and its qualified medical staff to assist with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout campaign.”

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

“We commend the efforts by SACTWU which is a leading union in the campaign to contain Covid-19 in the factories and workplaces for prevention and vaccination. It is important that the union has integrated Covid-19 in its health and safety activities, and this justifies why Covid-19 must be recognized as an occupational disease.”

South Africa has the highest Covid-19 infections in Sub Saharan Africa, and over 63,000 people have died. According to the South African Medical Research Council excess deaths of 176,700 have been recorded in the country since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Further, according to the department of health, on 7 July the country had 195,493 active cases with 411 people dying from Covid-19 related complications per day. The country is recording 21,427 new infections per day. So far 3,819,730 have been vaccinated, but this is far much less than the 40 million people that are targeted for the country to reach population immunity. Reports indicate that some of the country’s hospitals in Covid-19 hot spots like Johannesburg are running out of hospital beds for patients that need admission.