Clothing workers in South Africa are edging closer to a strike after the union that represents them told just-style early indications of a ballot amongst its members suggests they will vote in favour of industrial action.  

The South African Clothing and Textiles Workers' Union (Sactwu) is balloting 40,000 workers over a two-week period, which started last Tuesday (28 August).

The action is part of a dispute with employer group Apparel Manufacturers of South Africa (AMSA), and centres around a clause in new contracts which would mean that all workers employed after 1 September will be paid 80% of the industry minimum wage. The offer also includes a 6.5% pay increase for workers in metro areas.

A spokesperson for Sactwu told just-style that if it were to accept the proposal, it would lead to job losses amongst existing workers in established factories.

"For example, a new establishment could be set up almost overnight next to an existing establishment, produce the same product line but pay workers a 20% lower wage. What will happen to workers at the existing facility? What will happen to the existing plant? It will become uncompetitive, workers will be operationally dismissed and the plant will close down, unless of course the wages of current workers at the existing plant also get cut by 20%," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson emphasised that early indications show workers will vote in favour of the strike action.

"It is not our preference to go on strike. But we are left with no choice. We are not a trigger happy union. It is a measure of last resort for us. That last resort is now," the spokesperson added.