I am disappointed that in your article “Union owns stake in sweat shop” (City Press, September 19 2010) you chose the sensationalist aspect of the story rather than presenting a more balanced view.

As I explained, there is no direct link between the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) and Seardel other than that the union owns 17 million N shares, about 0.028% of the total votes.

There is an indirect link through Sactwu’s investment in HCI, but both HCI and Seardel operate as independent entitles with the directors of each bound by fiduciary duties. Sactwu has no influence over management’s decision-making process within Seardel other than its role as representative of labour. Be that as it may, the Seardel Lesotho factory complies with all Lesotho laws. The same cannot be said for the non-compliant South African factories.

The fact of the matter is that paying the minimum gazetted wage is a legal requirement.

Your sources seem to be suggesting that these factories should be allowed to continue to operate illegally in order to preserve jobs.

If this is so, then there are a number of other measures that can be taken in the interest of job preservation.

Are your sources advocating that businesses should be allowed to evade tax, commit VAT fraud or disregard health and safety legislation in the interest of job preservation, or are they limiting the allowed illegal actions to non-compliance with the gazetted minimum wage?

If so, why should this one legal requirement be held out for special treatment?

To justify this practice on the back of a tenuous link between Sactwu and Seardel’s Lesotho operation is preposterous.

A debate about whether the law can be changed to make SA operators more competitive would be a more constructive debate than the one put forward in your article.

Source: City Press – Stuart Queen