Over 270 Textile Workers Want To Return To Work

53
Over 270 Textile Workers Want To Return To Work
Over 270 Textile Workers Want To Return To Work

Africa-Press – Eswatini. A total of 272 textile workers from FTM Garments, Zheng Yong and Ho’s Enterprise want to return to work.

The workers were laid off after an industrial action by workers from different textile firms, organised by the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) in April 2022.

From these, 215 are employed by Ho’s Enterprise, 37 from FTM Garments and 20 from Zheng Yong.

Filing three separate court applications at the Industrial Court through their trade union, the textile workers have accused their employers of victimisation.

Intimidated

The applicants say post the strike that lasted a whole month, they were part of a group that was allegedly subjected to victimisation. They said they have been labelled as having constituted a mob that intimidated, threatened and harassed other workers from reporting for work during the strike action.

They also accuse their employers, FTM Garments Swaziland (Pty) Ltd, Zheng Yong Swaziland (Pty) Ltd and Ho’s Enterprises (Pty) Ltd, who are respondents, of systematically locking them outside their gates whenever the applicants reported for duty.

The applicants say this has placed them at a position where they cannot accumulate wages, as the respondents are allegedly not granting them work, while continuing to lock them out of the workstations.

They further submitted that the respondents have not given them any notification for suspension or dismissal. They say with this action, they cannot look for employment elsewhere because they were not yet dismissed by the firms. The 37 applicants from FTM Garments, who have since instructed lawyers from S.M Simelane Attorneys, submitted before court that their employer wrote letters calling them to a disciplinary hearing.

Discriminatory

The applicants were adamant that they would not take part in the disciplinary hearing after being accused of constituting a mob, charges they claim are discriminatory and victimising.

In their notice of motion, the FTM Garments employees asked the court to grant orders declaring the conduct of the respondents as unfair labour practices that are wrongful and unlawful.

They also implored the court to declare the respondent’s conduct of selecting the applicants and excluding them from entering into the workplace or refusing to accept them into service, while other employees who also participated in the same work stoppage have been allowed to work, as being unlawful discrimination and victimisation.

They are also seeking an order directing the respondent to pay them wages from May 1, 2022 up until their contracts are terminated by the respondent.

Agreement

One of the applicants, Sipho Simelane in his founding affidavit, stated that on 15 March, 2022, the wages negotiations between the employer and the workers failed to reach an agreement on wage increment, hence the workers resolved to embark on a work stoppage to force the employer to agree to their demands.

He said this was a decision taken during a joint meeting by the workers.Simelane said the respondents then filed an order interdicting the applicants from entering into the premises and not to prevent workers who wanted to work from doing so.

He said they fully complied with that order. He further stated that the intervention of the labour commissioner did not resolve the dispute. He submitted that the textile firm then recalled all employees back to work, an order he said they adhered to until the issues they faced when reporting for work.

“I and the other co-applicants were strategically, subjectively and discriminately selected and sent back home. We were informed that we were not going to be allowed to enter into the workplace and to resume our duties. We then noted that we were selected by the employer because we were perceived as the ring-leaders and most vocal workers during the work stoppage,” Simelane said. He said they remained in limbo and did not know whether they were still employees or dismissed.

Reliefs

“This honourable court is empowered and hereby requested to issue an order compelling the respondent to declare our employment status, among other reliefs sought in the Notice of Motion,” he said.

The matter has been postponed to 20 June, as the respondent is yet to file its papers. The applicants say the balance of convenience favours granting of a directory order in casu, because the prejudice which the respondent will suffer in the event that such an order is granted does not outweigh the prejudice that the applicants will suffer if they remain at home, without a clear position on whether they are on suspension or have been dismissed from work.

Through their union, ATUSWA, the workers demanded that they be paid E15 per hour. The Textile and Apparel Sector Wages Council had endorsed an 80 cents increase from the previous E11.20 to E12 per hour, an offer they allegedly rejected.

The 20 employees under Zheng Yong are also seeking an interdict against the firm. Vusi Dladla and 19 others also approached the Industrial Court, and alleged that they did not get paid wages for the month of May.

For More News And Analysis About Eswatini Follow Africa-Press

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here