Factories shut over minimum pay row

Edward West reports in the Business Day (Factories shut over minimum pay row, May 4, 2011) that, the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry recently closed two factories in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, in an effort to force employers to pay government legislated minimum wages. West reports, “South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) deputy general secretary Wayne van der Rheede said the closures were part of a "targeted campaign" to get clothing factory owners to comply with minimum wages set by the bargaining council. [Rheede] said there would not be "wholesale closure of companies" that would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs”.

Mr Rheede therefore plans to cherry pick some companies and use them as examples, neglecting the fact that workers in these factories now face the bleak alternative of unemployment. This is a callous disregard for these workers rights and the rights of consenting adults to decide for themselves the conditions of their employment. Not surprisingly, West reports, “The closure of another clothing company in Newcastle, Star Fair, sparked protests by angry workers and the police were called in to disperse them yesterday”. These workers are no doubt well aware of the unemployment situation currently prevailing in their area, where at least half of all working-aged adults find themselves in the invidious position of being unemployed. Government should get out of the way and let these people decide for themselves what constitutes “decent work”.

Author: Jasson Urbach is an economist with the Free Market Foundation. The views expressed in the bulletin are his own.

For text: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=141616

FMF Policy Bulletin/ 3 May 2011

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