Daily News  :: Southern Africa


‘Restrict cheap Chinese clothes' -SA unions

Published: 07-SEP-06

Johannesburg - Three South African trade unions on Wednesday resolved to throw their weight behind the proposed move to limit import of clothing and textile from China, officials announced.

The three workers unions, spearheaded by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), declared that the import of all Chinese products such as clothing and textile should be immediately restricted, arguing that many local companies' viability was under heavy threat as a result of cheap quality products flooding their market.

Cosatu spokesman, Patrict Craven, said that the three trade unions, which comprise Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu came together to face the common market threat - cheap Chinese products.

Craven said the three trade unions have a membership in excess of 2.5 million workers and 67 000 jobs alone have been lost in the clothing, textile and footwear sector over the past three and a half years. Craven did not indicate whether these jobs were made up by a booming retail sector on the back of cheaper imports.

“As trade unionists and South Africans we believe that the job losses in the sector constitute a national tragedy and that urgent action is required.

“The terms of the voluntary export restraints introduced by China can save huge numbers of local jobs and create much needed new employment. It is a confidence-boost for a sector that has battled for survival in recent years,” said a statement by the trade unions.

The statement further read: “We note with regret the hostile reaction of certain retailers to the proposed agreement. We are disappointed that the retail sector, who have led the drive towards a massive rise in imports in the sector, are unwilling to become partners in creating jobs for the large numbers of unemployed in the country.”

He said the three labour bodies were concerned with claims that the retailers intend to increase prices of clothing and textiles manufactured in China.

"In February 2006, the President of the Republic of South Africa gave notice of an in principal agreement between South Africa and China on limiting imports on clothing and textiles to this country. Further, in June this year, an agreement between China and South Africa was initialled during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to South Africa and this was widely publicised in the media.

“The retail sector has had a significant period to re-orient its procurement to South African sources and it is clear that they have bet that the authorities would not be able to put the regulations in place in time. Their bet having failed, they now seek to come across as the injured party,” they said.

’Buy local’

"The three labour federations have attempted at Nedlac for some time to persuade retailers to support an active Buy Local campaign and to enter into a code of conduct that would set broad targets for local procurement," said the statement.

The unionists further said that retail groups, “in particular the Edcon Group, Foschini, Truworths and Woolworths led the campaign against a local procurement code” because they were worried that this would lead to price increases.

"We have noted with concern the claims by retailers that this agreement will lead to price increases. Retails profits are at a historic high.

"Having had four fat years, the retail sector should tighten its belt. We believe that there is a responsibility now on retailers to moderate their mark-ups and their excessive profit-taking of recent years.

"The result of this will be that prices need not go up. -AND

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