The livelihoods of at least 14 000 clothing factory workers are in the hands of the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg). Judge Piet Koen reserved judgment in an application brought by five small clothing companies in Newcastle, and by the United Clothing and Textile Association, which could save about 450 factories from closure. The companies – owned by businessmen originating from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong – want the court to set aside Labour Minister Nelisiwe Oliphant’s decision to extend a collective agreement of the National Bargaining Council to clothing manufacturers that were not party to it. A Centre for Development and Enterprise survey found that only 8% of clothing manufacturers in KZN, and less than 25% nationwide, were party to the National Bargaining Council agreement but all manufacturers were legally bound to honour it and pay the new minimum wage. The report notes that in its court battle against Oliphant and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union, the five companies said the Minister acted unreasonably in extending the agreement to those not party to it without establishing the effect of such a move. However, Cosatu’s KZN branch reportedly said the threat of closures was a tactic to keep wages low.

Full report in The Times