South Africa's textile workers union has welcomed a new agreement by the country's government that sets a minimum wage for workers and imposes penalties for non-compliance.

The agreement, passed by Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant, became effective this week and means that every clothing worker in South Africa can enjoy the protection of legislated minimum terms and conditions of employment, particularly up-to-date compulsorily guaranteed minimum wage levels. These were negotiated under the auspices of the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry of South Africa.

The new agreement fixes the technical defects which caused the Pietermaritzburg High Court last year to set aside the 2010 clothing industry wage agreement.

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) said the agreement was a "ground-breaking victory".

"It is a solid indication that our current government cares about protecting the bargaining council-negotiated conditions of employment rights of clothing workers. This is a significant act of compassion for tens of thousands of workers in vulnerable industries, especially in light of the destructive onslaught against our industry wage agreements by organisations such as the Free Market Foundation."