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Union supports deal for small enterprises in South Africa to manufacture 14 million masks

18 May, 2020The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) supports a deal made by the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry to register small, medium, and micro-enterprises (SMMEs). The deal provides capacity to make 14 million masks and will help thousands of small companies to survive during the pandemic.

The bargaining council accredited 388 manufacturers with a capacity to make 14 million masks that cover the nose and mouth.

Additionally, 217 were approved to make personal protective equipment and other essential products required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

SACTWU says the deals will assist thousands of SMMEs to survive and continue production under the harsh conditions of the Covid-19 lockdown.

SMMEs employ from 10 to 250 workers, and the recently registered ones from the townships employ at least six workers on average in their cut-make-trim operations. SMMEs are exempted from the main collective agreements but are considered as compliant companies in strategies to allow their growth. Despite SMMEs operations being highly informal, unions are organizing the workers.

SACTWU, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, and Business for South Africa, have partnered in setting up an online portal where individuals and companies can buy the masks.

The wearing of face masks became a requirement on 1 May as one of the preventive measures to stop the coronavirus pandemic. SACTWU is campaigning for the manufacturing of the masks using local material to save and create jobs.

The union is welcoming the announced Phase 4 of lockdown regulations for clothing manufacturing, which will help the local industry.

Andre Kriel general secretary of SACTWU says:

“It is a great boost for our struggling local manufacturing industry, and will assist tens of thousands of clothing, textile, footwear, and leather workers during this difficult period. 

"We cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we take steps now to ensure that we still have a domestic manufacturing industry after lockdown.”

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL textile director, says:

“It is important to allow small garment operations to grow and be part of the supply chain, and it is commendable that SACTWU is involved in building the capacity of the SMMEs. It is equally crucial that workers are involved in efforts to fight Covid-19.”