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Factories to challenge bargaining council

May 08 2011 10:41 Dewald van Rensburg

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Johannesburg - Clothing factories that could be shut down for failing to pay the industry’s prescribed minimum wages plan to take the sector’s bargaining council to court.

On Friday the United Clothing & Textile Association (Ucta), which was established earlier this year by factories under threat, lodged an urgent application in the Pietermaritzburg High Court to prevent factory closures, said association chairperson Ahmed Paruk.

On Friday afternoon the applicant was waiting to hear if the application could be heard as a matter of urgency.

According to Paruk, Ucta is also planning a separate court action against the bargaining council to contest the institution’s authority over these factories.

A leading legal firm was already involved in financially supporting a non-government organisation, he said.

The aim is to contest the validity of the bargaining council’s minimum wage agreement in court, but the matter was “sub judice”, said Paruk, and he could therefore not enlarge on it.

Ucta plans to argue in court that the agreement is invalid as it was negotiated between the bargaining council’s big members without any input from the factories affected, said Paruk.

The council is dominated by employer group Apparel Manufacturers of SA (Amsa) and the Sactwu union.

Last week the bargaining council again began shutting down factories not paying the minimum wage, following a moratorium on factory closures hurriedly negotiated late last year had expired.

In terms of the moratorium, factories had until April this year to pay 70% of the prescribed minimum wages.

After expiry of this deadline a countrywide inspection process had been launched to determine how widely the agreement was being implemented.

Last week the first factories not complying with the agreement had been closed.

Those factories in contravention were closed by the issuing of orders for the attachment of assets to compensate for unpaid wages and money owing to the council.

Last year the council obtained attachment orders against 385 clothing factories but since last month only a quarter have been inspected to determine whether they were keeping to the agreement, said Leon Deetlefs, the bargaining council’s compliance manager.

sactwu  |  amsa
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