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Vaccine roll-out framework agreement reached in South Africa’s garment sector

8 April, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Southern African Clothing and Textile workers Union (SACTWU) has signed a framework agreement to campaign for Covid-19 vaccination of garment workers.

SACTWU says the agreement aims to reach an immunity target of at least 80 per cent of the workers and will be extended to other sectors in which the union organizes that include textile, leather, and shoe.
The framework agreement reached on 6 April with the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry of South Africa which represents five garment employer associations, aims to building a close working relationship with the national government and the Department of Health.
The agreement also encourages the development of workplace guidelines and plans that will facilitate vaccine rollouts which will be made available to the workers.
On workers’ rights, the agreement states that there will be no employment contract that will discriminate a worker based on whether the worker has been vaccinated or not. Additionally, to counter fake information, the agreement also aims to debunk myths on Covid-19 vaccines, provide credible information and training of shop stewards on the vaccine rollout campaign.
The agreement promotes initiatives to fast-track the buying of adequate and affordable vaccines for the country. These include supporting plans to produce vaccines locally. For example, there are plans for Aspen, a South Africa pharmaceutical company to start delivering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in June from its factory in Gqberha formerly Port Elizabeth. The vaccine will be received in a frozen state then thawed and packaged for local distribution.
The South African government has ordered about 43 million vaccines and is expecting deliveries from Pfizer and the Covax facility. In the long term, the agreement supports the development of a domestic Covid-19 vaccine. So far 278,909 health care workers have been vaccinated.
Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL director for the textile and garment industry says:

“Covid-19 is a call to innovate in the way we carry out campaigns as trade unions. In this sense, we commend SACTWU for being a pioneer and campaigning for the prevention of Covid-19 when the pandemic started; to now campaigning for vaccine access, equity and rollout amongst garment workers.”

 André Kriel, SACTWU, general secretary says:

“The union regards this as an important next step to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased that clothing employers have embraced this campaign and have consented to this framework agreement and contributed constructively to its finally agreed-to terms.”