More than 800 workers would be affected by the proposed shutdown of clothing and textile giant Seardel’s Intimate Apparel division, bringing the total number of retrenchments at the company for the year close to 2 000.

Clothing industry insiders were outraged at Seardel chief executive Stuart Queen’s confirmation at the weekend that it proposed to close down its lingerie and swimwear division, which has Woolworths as one of its biggest clients. According to Queen, the business has made losses in excess of R100 million over the previous three reporting periods.

He said: “We believe that we have given this business every chance, but unfortunately every restructuring that was done was met with further volume declines.”

In April, it also retrenched more than 800 workers from a number of its factories in Durban and Cape Town, citing diminishing sales volumes and soaring labour costs as the reasons for the shutdown.

The latest spate of retrenchments takes place in a division known for brands such as Triumph brassieres and Speedo swimwear and also follows the closure of Seardel’s Frame Vertical Pipeline in Durban, which left 1 400 people unemployed in July last year.

At the weekend, a clothing industry insider, who did not want to be named, said the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) appeared far too unconcerned: “The union claims to be pro-workers, but they’re happy to get rid of another 800 workers if it would suit their income.”

Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said the union had met with and briefed its Intimate Apparel members last week. “The union’s role is to defend the interest and jobs of our members and we will do so organisationally without fear, favour or prejudice in the statutory processes which are now required to unfold over the next few months.”

Woolworths clothing and general merchandise division director Brett Kaplan said Intimate Apparel was a critical supplier of lingerie to Woolies. “This means we will lose a key supplier of lingerie and in order to ensure continuity and quality of supply to our customers we will need to source an alternative supplier as a matter of urgency.”

Source: Busines Report – Florence de Vries