South Africa: after a month of tension and violence, the footwear strike comes to an end. “It was a disaster for everyone”

The strike by the footwear industry’s workers has ended in South Africa thanks to the agreements reached (separately) between the businesses’ organization (SAFLIA) and the two main unions (NULAW and SACTWU). The strikes began on July 9th and July 19th: unions wanted a 9% increase in wages, while SAFLIA was set on 6.25%. In the week of August 15th the agreement between SAFLIA and NULAW was reached: increase of 7.5% and benefits extended to the workers’ partners. The agreement between SAFLIA and SACTWU was struck on August 20th, with the same conditions as the first. Both will be considered in effect before peace broke, with a starting date of July 1st, since the old collective contract had expired on June 30th. Before the end of the strikes SAFLIA’s director, Jirka Vymetal had expressed its concerns for violent retaliations, intimidations and arsons against companies’ buildings that were mentioned by some producers. The concern was so high that some companies, like Corvari Footwear and Prisaan Footwear, to get production up and running faster had started discussing terms on single basis. Mark Gibbings, president of Footwear & Accessories Component Cluster (FACC), said that the strikes “were a disaster” for the entire footwear industry, revenue included. “There was no production for an entire month, thus no revenue, no profit, and financial difficulties that add on to an already challenging first half of 2018”, said Garth Ribbink of Greenways, a company that supplies materials and components to shoe-factories.


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