Workers in a clothing factory in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Workers in a clothing factory in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The clothing and textile sector’s 80,000 workers have been guaranteed full pay for six weeks during and after the Covid-19 lock down in a ground-breaking agreement by stakeholders.

On Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day national lockdown to limit the coronavirus outbreak. It will take effect from midnight on Thursday, and will impose stringent restrictions on the movement of people. People will be confined to their homes and will only be allowed to leave to shop for essentials such as food and medicines, to seek healthcare, or collect social grants.

On Tuesday, the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry in SA announced that parties in the industry have reached a “ground-breaking agreement” that will see workers getting their salaries during the lockdown period.

The signatories to the agreement include the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu), the Apparel & Textile Association of SA (Atasa), and the SA Apparel Association (Saaa).

According to the agreement, payment to the industry’s 80,000 workers will be made up of workers' Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) monies and employers funds, and that the clothing industry bargaining council will be the institution for the UIF distribution payments to workers through company payroll systems.

The bargaining council said the agreement had been submitted to the department of employment and labour for an “emergency gazette and extension to non-party companies in the clothing industry”.

“The parties to the bargaining council, working together with the UIF and the department of employment and labour are now focusing on the practical modalities of implementation of the agreement.”

A clothing industry Covid-19 lockdown rapid response task team has been established to manage immediate “practical implementation matters arising from the conclusion of the agreement”.

In a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday, employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi said employers and bargaining councils will be used to distribute new UIF benefits.

Nxesi said the government would not put a number on the table as to the size of the national disaster benefit as it might unfairly raise expectations.

“We do not want to talk about figures. We can’t announce something that we cannot fulfil. Our actuaries are busy looking at the numbers.” 

The UIF was anticipated at the time of the February budget to have R3.6bn in surplus contributions over the next three years. In addition, to this it also had about R60bn in investments with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

Both these numbers are completely out of date, as contributions to the fund will now change significantly and investments will have diminished considerably.

Meanwhile, SA’s tally of Covid-19 cases have risen to 554 and the number is expected to continue to rise for at least another fortnight, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has said. He said it will take time for the 21-day national lockdown to have an effect and reduce the spread of the disease.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za

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