The Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) is embarking on an initiative to try to drive uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine to 80% of the sector’s workers.

The new ‘Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Campaign Industry Framework Agreement‘ will see employer and trade union groups work with the national government and the national health department to encourage industry leaders and workers to take the vaccine.

The programme also aims to debunk myths about the Covid-19 vaccine; ensure there is no employment contract discrimination for workers who take the vaccine or decline to do so; and develop customised guidelines for all workplaces on how to facilitate the vaccine rollout.

There will also be support initiatives to fast-track the sourcing, quality and quantity of vaccines.

The goal is to “set an ‘industry immunity target’ Covid-19 vaccine administration achievement rate of 80% of all employees in the industry.”

The framework agreement was reached with the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry of South Africa, which represents five garment employer associations

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SACTWU will now turn its attention to securing similar pacts in the textile, leather, distribution, agriculture and other sectors.

“We are pleased that clothing employers have embraced this campaign and have consented to this Framework Agreement, and have contributed constructively to its finally agreed-to terms,” says SACTWU general secretary André Kriel. “We regard this as an important next step to help combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

According to the IndustriAll global union, the South African government has ordered about 43m vaccines and is expecting deliveries from Pfizer and the Covax facility. 

In the long term, the agreement supports the development of a domestic Covid-19 vaccine. So far 278,909 health care workers have been vaccinated. 

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriAll director for the textile and garment industry, adds: “We commend SACTWU for being a pioneer and campaigning for the prevention of Covid-19 when the pandemic started; to now campaigning for vaccine access, equity and rollout amongst garment workers.”

The move comes as SACTWU also concluded its outstanding wage negotiations for the woven cotton textile sub-sector – where workers will get a 5.5% wage increase with effect from 1 March 2021. About 8,000 textile workers across 72 companies nationally stand to benefit.