TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

South Africa: Retail Sector Spurns Union's Textiles Buying Code

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Source: Business Day (Johannesburg)

Leading clothing retailers Foschini, Woolworths, Truworths and Edcon have rejected the Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu's) demand that they sign a code committing them to procuring 75% of their products locally.

Cosatu said last week it was going to organise mass action against retailers after their refusal to sign the code, which it said would ease the pressure on the SA's clothing and textile industry.

Last year alone, the industry shed about 16,500 jobs through retrenchments, closures and liquidations, the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union said yesterday. In the first three months of this year, about 4700 workers in the industry had lost their jobs, the union said.

In a joint statement, the four retailers said they rejected Cosatu's demand because signing the code would give unions "inappropriate" influence over procurement policies.

"The problems in the local clothing and textile manufacturing are complex, and relate to the manufacturing industry falling behind their international competitors for many years, if not decades," they said.

Local manufacturers were unable to offer the variety, volumes and prices local consumers demanded, they said.

Cosatu spokesman Paul Notyhawa said: "That is what they have been saying all along. But from our side, we are not debating this issue any more. We want them to give us the date on which they will sign."